Being grateful is an ability that few people have.  Gratitude is a lesson I was taught by a dear friend of mine named Sandra.  She was grateful for everyone and everything in her life. At the time I couldn’t understand why.  I was in a situation where I was pretty miserable and I was frustrated with my life. Despite the fact that I had so much for which to be grateful, I didn’t recognize it.

But Sandra was able to look at all the events in her life and bring some sense of order and beauty into each and every one of them, no matter the scope or how challenging and painful.

Sandra and I met and became friends because our two boys were in the same class. My family and I had just moved from Manhattan to upstate New York and we were getting to know the local school system. Both boys were 5 years old at the time. Sandra’s son Savion and my son, Paul, (whose nickname is PT) became fast friends.

I had been very worried about PT because he had limited speech abilities. Although PT had a very sweet disposition, he also became frustrated easily. He had only just started speaking at 3 years old and we had been getting him private speech therapy.  We were very lucky to have received great special education services while living in Manhattan.

I was hopeful that we could find the same level of excellent support in his new school.  Since Sandra’s son, Savion also required Special Ed services, she helped me by showing me what I needed to know to advocate for services for PT.

Sandra taught me about gratitude. Despite the fact that she was also dealing with her son’s Special Ed needs, she looked at it from a totally different perspective. She was grateful. I felt resentful and cheated that my son couldn’t function as well as the other kids in the class. But Sandra helped me to see things more clearly. I was just always amazed at how joyful and lighthearted she was despite facing some really tough circumstances.

During those years our kids spent a lot of time together. When my daughter, Cara was 3 years old, Sandra helped me to get Cara into the same Headstart program as her daughter, Ataia. From that point on, Cara blossomed. Looking back now in retrospect, I realize that I owe so much of my kids’ success in school to Sandra’s guidance and her attitude of gratitude.

In those days I wasn’t feeling too grateful. In fact I felt like everything was stacked up against me. I was a really big complainer.  And I would secretly marvel at how easily Sandra was able to see the positive aspects in everything. By watching her gracefully reframe situations in her life, I was able to see how she could focus her attention on things that were useful to her and avoid wasting time on things that she could not change.

Sandra always used to say, I’m so blessed to have you as a friend because… and she would list a hundred different reasons why at that moment she felt blessed for having my friendship.  I always admired her ability to be so proactive and to choose to make a difference in the world.  I noticed that she took time out of her busy day and devoted much of her energy to caring for others, volunteering and guiding people to be more aware of their gifts.

Sandra often expressed her gratitude.  I would often open up my email box and see a note from her just saying thank you for being such a wonderful friend.  That used to light me up and brighten my day.

Unfortunately, we’ve since lost touch with one another since we’ve chosen to pursue different paths. I realize that I could be bitter about it but I choose to remember all the wonderful times we shared and all the blessings that she brought into my life.  Her model of gratitude has given me the ability to reframe many events in my life that I once perceived as ‘my cross to bear’ and now I see them as my gems. For that alone, I am eternally grateful. Sandra was a very special friend and I was blessed to have her in my life for the time that I did.

I often hear so many people complaining of what’s wrong in their lives and spend little time sharing what is wonderful in their lives. Before Sandra came into my life, I used to be one of those people.

Since meeting Sandra, I have found that when I pay attention to the blessings in my life, they seem to multiply.  I’ve also realized that when I pay attention to things that remind me of being sad, I become more depressed.  In tribute to my friendship with Sandra, now I am more grateful and often tell my family, friends, clients and colleagues how lucky I am to be blessed by their presence in my life.  Since doing that, my life has become so rich with love and blessings.

I’d like to challenge you and encourage you to elevate your energy and look at how you can become more grateful.  Like Sandra, that means taking a proactive part in your life, sharing and expressing that gratitude with others. The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines the word grateful in the following way:

1. appreciative of benefits received
2. affording pleasure or contentment: pleasing by reason of comfort supplied or discomfort alleviated

Consider this definition and think of ways that you can be more appreciative of the benefits you have received from everyone and everything in your life. See if you can open up a space in your heart and view things from a larger perspective, even the really challenging parts of your life.

I encourage you to brainstorm ways that you can supply comfort or alleviate discomfort by sharing your gratitude with others. You’ll notice that when you begin to do this some amazing changes will occur in your life.  Please realize that this only reflects my belief on the power of gratitude. I’d love to hear your feedback and share in your experiences.  I encourage you to leave a comment and let me know how being grateful works for you in your life.