“It is not happy people who are thankful. It is thankful people who are happy.” ~Unknown
I used to be a complainer, a fault-finder, a grumbler. I would grumble a hundred times a day about mundane issues, be it the weather, the traffic, or my husband.
I complained when my husband didn’t help me around the house, and grumbled when he helped. It took me some time to realize that it was not him or his lack of housekeeping skills that made me unhappy. I was unhappy because I was turning into an ungrateful person.
I have some fond and not so fond memories of my childhood. When I was a kid, my parents force-fed me green vegetables and limited my television and playtime. They wanted me to study and do my homework, and made me go to sleep every night at 8:30 PM. But all I wanted was freedom, freedom from homework and freedom to do whatever I wanted.
I was nine years old when I first expressed my ingratitude to my parents. One day, after school, instead of boarding the school bus that would take me home I boarded the one that took me to my friend’s house. I thought this would be the end to the horrible veggies and boring homework. But things didn’t go as planned.
My friend’s father got in touch with my dad, who drove down to take me back home. As I nervously watched my dad step out of the car I noticed worry etched on his face. He gently put his protective hands around my shoulders and said, “Come, let’s go home.” We drove home in silence, and gradually guilt found its way into my heart.
When we approached home, I peered through the windows of the car and spotted a tired, lean figure standing by the gate of the house, my mom. I got down from the car and tentatively took one step toward her. Gazing into her moist eyes I gingerly called out, “Mummy.”
She took me in her arms and hugged me tightly, while crying into my school shirt. As my tiny hands held her I realized my mistake.
Today, when I look back to that incident, I realize now that as a child I took for granted all that my parents did for me.
In a world where girls are denied education, at times buried alive, where orphanages are filled with children abandoned by their parents, here were my parents who catered to all my needs and prepared me for the future. In this unfair world, I was blessed with parents who gave me a fair chance at life, to grow and to prosper.
My parents indeed planted the first seeds of gratitude when I was still a kid. But it wasn’t until I attained motherhood that I truly understood the importance of showing gratitude.
Like every first-time mother, I went through anxious moments looking after and raising my baby. With my hyperactive daughter, things just seemed like a never-ending battle, with crayon painted walls, carrot juice stains on the carpet, moisturizers and lipsticks tested on every piece of furniture, and toys scattered around.
I longed for peace, I longed for rest, and I longed for a clean house. I complained and cribbed about how being a mother was the toughest job in the world.
Until one day, I visited a friend whose six-month-old son was admitted in the hospital, as he was diagnosed with Muscle Dystrophy, a genetic disorder that affects all the muscles including the muscles of the heart.
That tiny baby lay on a bed motionless, strapped to a heart monitor. It was heartbreaking to watch the grieving mother coax and beg her frail baby to wake up, to cry, to whine, to do something, anything, while he did nothing. He just lay there, motionless.
As I stood there, watching helplessly, an image of my little devil—my daughter—scribbling on the walls flashed through my mind.
What had I been complaining about? An active child, a healthy child? Isn’t this what I had prayed for when expecting her? Surely, there would be plenty of women out there in this world who would give anything for my sleepless nights and messy house.
From that day on, whenever my daughter was unable to go to sleep even at two in the morning, I didn’t complain. In fact, as I held her and kissed her forehead, I was thankful knowing I have such a wonderful gift.
It’s human nature to forget our blessings and concentrate on our problems, but when we complain, our mind plunges into negativity, and like a domino effect everyone around us gets impacted by it.
Panasonic founder Konosuke Matsushita would often finalize a candidate selection by asking his famous concluding question. “Do you think you have been lucky in your life?”
The purpose of this question, according to him, was to comprehend if the candidate was thankful for the people who helped him in his life. He believed that this attitude of gratitude in employees leads to a happy work environment, which in turn boosts company productivity.
Most of us tend to connect happiness to major events, like a promotion or winning the lottery. But these events don’t happen often. Gratitude is what makes our life richer, more beautiful, and a lot happier as we start to enjoy the little things in life.
We often take people in our life for granted, or get caught up in complaining and grumbling. It’s true, my husband can be lazy sometimes, my parents keep nagging me, my teenage daughters never listen to me, and I have some crazy friends, but you know what? My life is incomplete without all of them.
Life is a celebration. When we love everything we have, we have everything we need. So, let us make this journey of life worthwhile and take that huge leap from grumbling to gratitude.