by Damon Carr
For New Pittsburgh Courier
Thanksgiving is upon us. Thanksgiving is a celebration of the harvest and other blessings of the past year. The dictionary defines thanksgiving as an expression of gratitude, especially to God.
Growing up, our family had a tradition during Thanksgiving. We would all stand around the dinner table holding hands. Someone would bless the food. Then we’d go around the table one by one, each of us expressing what we’re grateful for. It was like a broken record. Each year you can predict what everyone would say. Usually everyone said the same thing. I’m grateful for my family, good health, and my home. Some would include jobs and cars. But all would say family, good health and home. I’ve carried on the tradition. I listen to my children echo the same sentiments, I’m grateful for my family, good health, and my home. I’m sure your family has a similar tradition.
To be grateful for something is to appreciate it and not take it for granted. To appreciate something is to value it. Things you value put a smile on your face. It makes you feel good when you’re around it. It makes you happy. You’d think that if we had family, good health, and the basic necessities of life including food, clothing, shelter and transportation, we’d be happy.
I can hear Mary J. Blige’s voice in my mind as I write this article, “All I really want is to be happy”. I think that pretty much sums it up for all of us. At the end of the day we just want to be happy! Nonetheless, most of us are anything but happy. We have fleeting moments of happiness. But, by and large, day by day, we move about briskly, hustling and bustling, frustrated and overwhelmed, wondering why happiness missed us.
There appears to be a void in our life. So we seek to fill the void with things, stuff, clothes, gadgets, entertainment, boyfriends, girlfriends, babies, money, drugs, sex, alcohol, vacation, cars, and houses—thinking an accumulation of these things would surely bring us happiness.
We accumulate these things. In the beginning we’re pumped, joyous and upbeat. We’re happy go lucky! Inspired! We’re filled with vigor! We’re in a state of ecstasy! Sooner or later the high from the drugs wears off. The intoxication of the alcohol runs its course. The boyfriend or girlfriend begins to nag. The baby starts to cry. The money proves itself to be finite. The entertainment becomes redundant. The cars and houses require upkeep. The gadgets become outdated. The clothes are worn and torn. The honeymoon phase is over. Here we stand again grappling with the question, why did happiness miss us?
I’m a natural optimist. I seek to see the good in things before I see the bad. Very seldom, you’ll find me down, drained and miserable. I live by these words. God gave me breath and good health. The rest is on me. I have my “woe is me” moments. When I do, it’s generally the result of constant negative thoughts. I’m reflecting on things that frustrate me. Things I don’t have. Things that haven’t met my expectations. Things that I thought I’d have accomplished by now. Things I thought others would do but they didn’t do it.
I have friendships with people who are naturally pessimistic. They see everything from a negative viewpoint. They can’t see the positive things going on right in front of them because they’re always focusing on the things that are going bad.
Then there’s my Uncle Art. He’s the happiest man I know. He lives an ordinary life. Every time I see him, he’s smiling and joking. He’s fun to be around. He’s a family man who loves and enjoys spending time with his wife, children, grandchildren and other family members and friends. If there’s a family cookout, you can bank on Uncle Art being there. He doesn’t want anything. He never asks for anything. He is always willing to assist and help others. He recently retired after working over 40 years at a local hospital.
He worked the same job for 40 years. He’s been married to my maternal aunt for over 40 years. They’ve lived in their current home for a little over 30 years. My uncle loves cars. When he buys his cars, he buys them slightly used. He keeps them for about 10-13 years. This guy has had only about 3, maybe 4 cars that I can remember. He loves playing pool. He has a pool table at his home. He taught me how to shoot pool on this same pool table when I was 7 years old.
What makes my Uncle Art the happiest man I know? He truly has an attitude of gratitude. He values and appreciates everything that he has worked hard to obtain. He’s not chasing stuff. He’s content with what he has. He values his relationship with people. He values his time with his family and friends. He doesn’t just utter the words I’m grateful for family, good health, and my home. He lives these words with his actions in the moment—EVERYDAY!
Our lack of happiness can be attributed to our lack of being grateful for the things that we have. We spend so much time wishing for more and chasing more, we never allow ourselves to fully absorb and appreciate the good that we have right now.
There’s a high probability that you’re better off today than you were 10 years ago. Are you grateful? Do you sit back and look at how far you’ve come? Do live in the moment or are you always fantasizing about how life should be? Are you spending quality time with the people you claim to be grateful for? That void that you’re trying to fill is the absence of gratitude.
Never stop working for what you want but always be grateful for what you have. For if you don’t learn to be grateful for what you have, you’ll one day be forced to miss what you had.
Thank You Rod Doss and The Courier staff for editing and publishing my articles!! Thank you for reading my column! May your Thanksgiving and every day of your life be filled with Gratitude! It will lead to happiness! Happy Thanksgiving!!
(Damon Carr, Money Coach can be reached at 412-216-1013 or visit his website @ www.damonmoneycoach.com)