For our ward's quarterly Enrichment meeting we decided to focus on gratitude and President Eyring's talk "O Remember, Remember". For part of the program we asked several sisters to keep gratitude journals for one month and then report on the experience. Their stories ended up being the highlight of the night!
One of my favorites came from one of my visiting teachers, De. De has been with me for a few years now and has listened to me jabber through a lot of ups and downs (I talk A LOT and my poor VTs just listen. I love having a captive audience!). She is a wonderful listener and I'm grateful for her gospel insights and patience. De also happens to be blind. She has some residual sight which allows her to see contrasts but she has a hard time going from low light to bright light and, I think, most things are just a blur for her.
Here is what De said that night:
I was asked to keep this journal to record things I'm grateful for. I'm not a gifted writer, but I started out trying to write something each evening. I think I was trying too hard to think of things that were "out of the ordinary" (maybe bordering on the miraculous), but there were a lot of days that were just ordinary. So I decided that I was overthinking it. I don't have to try that hard to think of things to be grateful for. So I started thinking about all the blessings I receive every day. I'm alive - what a wonderful gift that is. I wake up every morning in my warm, cozy bed in my own home. I can hear the birds singing and I don't have to worry about where my next meal is coming from. I should be on my knees constantly thanking God for all the wonderful blessings I have. I was ashamed to realize that I had been taking all these things for granted.
Diana [our RS pres.] mentioned in her lesson Sunday that we should be grateful for everything in our lives, even the bad things. That got me thinking about the trials in my life...have I ever felt grateful??? When I bang my head for the 100th time in a day or lay something down and can't find it again, do I feel grateful, or do I mutter, "Lord, life would be so much easier if I could just see."
I hadn't given that a lot of thought before, but I did find some things to be grateful for. I should be grateful that I haven't had a concussion or permanent brain damage. I can't see the grey hair, wrinkles or turkey neck, so in my mind I'm still the same person I've always been--I'll never get old! I don't have to spend a lot of time worrying about what to wear. If I get dressed and my clothes are on right side out and I don't have on 2 different shoes, I'm good to go.
Seriously, there are blessings. I see things with my heart instead of my eyes. When you can't see what people look like, you see who they really are on the inside. I think being visually impaired has made me a better person. I'm more patient & compassionate & I've had to develop a sense of humor. If you don't laugh, you cry. So once again, I don't have to look very hard to find things to be grateful for.
And now for the really big blessings (and this is miraculous). Because of the atonement, I will be resurrected with a perfect body and I'll be able to see. And because of temple ordinances, I've been able to do baptisms for my parents & my son, and I'll be able to see them again.
So what the gratitdue journal has done for me is to make me think seriously about all the many blessings in my life, and to be truly grateful for every one of them (even the trials) If I actually made a list of all the things I'm grateful for, this little notebook wouldn't be big enough to hold it. It's my prayer that I will always be aware of the many blessings in my life and never take them for granted and I hope that someday I will be worthy to return to live with Heavenly Father & Jesus Christ and to be able to thank them personally for the life they have given me.
Maybe it's because I know De personally that her story meant so much to me, but I don't think so. I think it was meaningful because she whole-heartedly embraced what gratitude can do for us. Gratitude is such a powerful state of mind. (Even WebMD thinks of it as a part of depression therapy!) Not only does gratitude makes us more alert, enthusiastic, determined, optimistic, and energetic, it also opens our hearts to God. And for that, I'm grateful.