Last night, during family prayer, I wanted to thank Heavenly Father for watermelon, but I started to smile and even worried I might laugh, and worst of all, that I might sound silly. So I didn't express my gratitude for a sincere, authentic appreciation for watermelon.
A few minutes later, when I said my personal prayer, I thanked Heavenly Father for watermelon. I did smile, almost laughed, but felt I was in good company for being authentic. I even felt that little endorphin kick for sincere gratitude. It was a lovely way to end the day (gratitude and laughter), before I thankfully crawled into bed.
There are multitudinous studies on gratitude and each one confirms the benefits of gratitude: better health, less attachment to material goods, a trigger in the brain for good feelings. For teens, the benefits are just as great: more friends, better grades.
Last night, at the end of a long week, Tony and I sat down to watch an episode of Master Chef. It's a demanding cooking competition, with a profanity flinging Gordon Ramsey, but the show has a lot of heart. Each week, the home cook who flubs his dish, is voted off the island. Last night's flub was a cake and the offender was a man from Venezuela. When he was asked to respond to his banishment from the kitchen, he said with the most sincere heart, "I am grateful." Tony and I were touched, the other competitors were tearful, and even THE master chef Gordon Ramsey choked up.
Knowing the effect of gratitude on teenagers, I decided to begin the school year with an exercise in thankfulness. The very first day we formed two gratitude circles. The concept is a speed-dating set-up where two people facing each other have 30 seconds to express their gratitude for...anything. After switching, students had to express a new thing for which they were grateful--no repeats.
Each year I do this exercise with students, though never on the first day. Every time it has produced the same results. At first, students wonder if they will be able to come up with so many things to be grateful for, or the students start off nervous. Sometimes it is quiet---at first. At the end of the exercise it is always loud and happy...oh so happy. I even had a student burst out, "Let's continue!"
Last year was the first time I joined the circle, and I will never miss out again. A conversation that begins with sincere gratitude, is a conversation set on the right course.
I am wondering what would happen to my own marriage if each morning I greeted Tony with, "I am grateful for you."
After an entire summer of mediocre watermelon, I was soooo grateful for the juiciest, possibly sweetest watermelon I had ever tasted, that I didn't stop eating until my belly was in overload. Yet, I hesitated to express my gratitude in prayer, thinking of the possible ramifications for doing so. I think of all the things for which I am grateful for, but hesitate to express. I hold back. I don't know why, but I want to cut loose....to be free, to be grateful--to be happy!! This is going to change my life...