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Reflections on Gratitude…at Wheat & Tares

September 1, 2012

My latest post on Wheat and Tares, Reflections on gratitude and seeing what you believe, went up yesterday.

Flunking Sainthood Gratitude Challenge

Over at Wheat and Tares, I collected many of my thought’s about Jana Riess’s “Gratitude Challenge” from this month. This practice has brought subtle, yet undeniable changes to how I view things, and my general attitude on most days.  I do know that my mood has ups and downs, though, so I can’t be sure if participating in the gratitude challenge is the source of my latest upswing, or if I already have been on an upswing and the gratitude challenge is just staying along for the ride.

One of these days, I’m going to write a more comprehensive post in response to the post I wrote two weeks ago on faith, since I think that the discussion raised a lot of really interesting points…but I guess you’ll just have to catch the few thoughts that I had in my post on gratitude. In this post, I want to do something a little different, however…While I tried to vary the things I listed for my gratitude entries every day (so I was not recycling anything), I will say that I recognize that there are some items that were pretty much true every day that I could consistently say I’m grateful for. Here are just 5 of them.

1) I’m grateful for my health and my youth.

I recognize that I’m not in the best of shape (although I think that if I got a formal health check up, that I would be OK with it), but it’s not hard for me to jump back into fencing. One thing that I’m discovering (or rather, that more and more people seem to be pointing out) is that I have a natural athleticism (!) and an intuitive situational awareness while on strip, and these things make up for my lack of discipline, lack of precision, and lack of formal training.

I certainly do not disagree with the latter “lacks”…I have felt embarrassed the few times that I’ve taken lessons from coaches, because they are asking me to do really basic things (attack a spot on their hand, arm, or chest) and I can’t do it. I don’t have a feel for where my arm is supposed to be at en garde, where it’s supposed to be with a full lunge, where the parries are supposed to be…so I have to be corrected on those basic points.

…but…I still do relatively well. (At least in epee. In foil and sabre? Not so much.)

It’s funny…when I was growing up, I didn’t play sports. I was a nerd and I took pride in that label. But now, people say that I am a natural athlete.

…and I am grateful to have that. I am grateful that the thing holding me back isn’t a lack of potential, but rather a lack of properly shaping that potential.

I’m grateful that I can eat what I want and just walk it off. I keep hearing about how people’s metabolism changes at some point, and I am not deluded that the same will happen to me, but for now, I feel robust.

I’m grateful that I so rarely get sick. Maybe that’s because I’m a shut-in and I don’t often hang out around sick people, but I find that when I do have a cold, I can recover really quickly. I am grateful that the last time I threw up was sometime in my teens. (Throwing up is one of my most hated things.)

I am aware from the stories I hear and read from others that these aspects of health are a gift…and furthermore, they are gifts to which not everyone is equally allotted. They are gifts which can be taken away. They are gifts to which some people must work, and to which other people cannot seem to grasp. And I have it…without doing much for it.

2) I am grateful to be financially stable.

Throughout school and through various readings I’ve done on the internet, I’ve read a ton of stuff about how one’s environment goes a long way in opening or closing off future options…that while in America, we like to think of the “American Dream” of social mobility, but in actuality, we really are a lot closer to inter-generational class reproduction, where most folks pretty much stay in the same socioeconomic class that they grew up in.

So, I am fortunate that my parents had the opportunities that they had, and that I had the opportunities that I had.

Sometimes, one of my brothers or my sister will want to do something either related with school or as an extracurricular activity, and I don’t even have to think about writing the check for them so that they don’t have to go to mom or dad about it.  I mean, I have a job that I enjoy (even with the late hours) and that allows me to do the things that I would really like to do — support my family.

I have been paying off my student loans, and I am beginning to build credit, but even that shows how fortunate that I have been — I only have loans for the last year of school, because for my undergraduate years, I had a full ride (plus some spending cash). I never had to work when I was growing up — the job I have now is my first job.

And I understand how it could have been otherwise…Even though I haven’t done it, I understand that working through high school and working through college isn’t an uncommon thing…I know that it is a position of privilege not to have to do that. But even looking at my current job…I am grateful to have it. I am grateful that I didn’t have to worry my last year in school, because I knew that I had a full-time offer as soon as I had finished my internship. I know that especially in these years, not every person (not even every college student) can be assured of a job after graduation. I know folks who took more demanding majors than I did who are still searching.

3) I am grateful to have a really cool family.

The other day, I was kinda shocked at an argument that I was having with a friend. I had mentioned how some religious parents kick their gay teenaged children out of the house just because they are gay, and I was expecting that this would be condemned by my friend. But instead, he seemed to go on about how different people may have different moralities, and that surely, I would agree that that would be an acceptable parental behavior. (For whatever it’s worth, I did not agree with his counter-examples — e.g., children who have one-night stands, or children who abuse drugs.)

Even though that conversation really soured me on human beings for a bit (although it seems that a lot of the conversation was based on a misunderstanding?), that made me realize how grateful I am that my parents aren’t like that.

I have conversations with so many teenagers on the r/exmormon reddit who are considering revealing to their parents their disaffection…and I always point out that they should not do so until they are financially independent…they just just keep on going to church, doing whatever it is that their parent expect of them to fulfill their religion…because they do not want to have to risk being kicked out or losing financial support for college or something like that.

I never had to worry about that though. Although it’s true that I did have a full ride to college (see grateful item number 2), my parents always recognized that education was the most important…so even if they had disagreed with something I was or something I did on some other level, they would not penalize me by jeopardizing my education.

In addition, my siblings are so very talented. My immediate younger brother has been majorly involved in an international service organization. My youngest brother and my sister are musicians (which, my immediate younger brother and I were musicians as well, but my youngest brother and sister have perfect pitch…which still kinda freaks me out), my youngest brother is doing some fencing at the high school I used to go to (I only wish there were some way I could get him one-on-one lessons with a coach…) and now my sister is starting to get into sketching and baking (the latter of which I totally take credit for…)

4) I am grateful to have basically no life drama.

Sometimes drama can be of its own creation (e.g., most teenage high school drama). Sometimes, drama can be completely unchosen…I am grateful that I have avoided or defused or disengaged from both kinds of drama.

Each day is pretty much smooth sailing. Sometimes,I get annoyed because I have to work later than I expected at work, but at least I have a job (again, see point 2). I don’t have to worry about getting hurt, although I know that this is something that can happen to anyone. I am someone who completely flipped over a car — it was a total loss — with nothing more than a bump on my head (that went away without complication). And during that event, my uncle was there for me…and my father (who is now an RN) came down to Houston to make sure that the hospitals were asking the right questions and performing the right tests — refer back to point 3.

I don’t have any medical conditions, as far as I am aware (see number 1), although I certainly know that this is something that can happen to anyone at anytime (and I am aware that because of many factors — family history, race, etc., I should be aware of certain things). The people I see on a day-to-day basis are good people; no one is gunning for me or trying to ruin me.

5) I am grateful to be acquainted with really cool people.

I wanted to elaborate on that last sentence. I think one possible source of major life drama is with interpersonal relationships. I think that certain personality types can clash, and that some folks can just be “out to get” other folks. Yet, I feel that in my life, the people with whom I engage on a day-to-day basis are really cool…they are all net positives in my life. I think about all the things I do, and it’s true across the board. In my blogging, even though I may not agree with every other person on Wheat & Tares, every person on Main Street Plaza, or elsewhere, the majority of people are thoughtful and thought-provoking (and I’m really grateful for the opportunity to meet a lot of these folks in person at Sunstone.)

I think about work. I have heard (especially in an analysis of public accounting), that work is really all about the people. I mean, just within public accounting, each of the firms pretty much does the same things…you are going go have audit, tax, and advisory, and those will have somewhat predictable subservice lines…just with different names and acronyms so that people can feel differentiated. There will be long days and nights. There will be weekends. But what really matters is if you can get along with the folks with whom you’re working on those long days and nights.

…and I can say that the people with whom I’ve had the privilege to work have been really great folks…I can think of some folks that I haven’t fully figured out — I don’t get them and they don’t get me yet — but the people on my engagement teams have always stepped up to my plate to advocate for me.

My third point of gratitude is just a subset of this point, after all. I could go on. All the friends I made at Texas A&M. The people I’ve met via Academic Decathlon. Panasonic Challenge. I look through the diverse network of friends I have on Facebook (sometimes getting a little creeped out when worlds start colliding, but that’s also pretty cool, in its own special way), and I mentally walk down our mutual experiences, and I cherish them. The thing is, I am well aware that there are folks who aren’t out for others’ best interest. There are folks who are malicious. There are folks who will take others down so they can get ahead. I am well aware that I have had some folks like this in my past, and at some level, I worry that the gratitude challenge is basically just confirmation bias in a decidedly rosy direction. And yet, the worst of these kinds of people have either not crossed my path or I have been able to sidestep or overcome them. And that’s something for which I’m grateful.

  1. I’ve really enjoyed your gratitude challenge.

  2. I’ve really enjoyed your gratitude challenge postings a well.

    Thanks for the final report.

  3. Thanks, Bonnie and Stephen.

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