One Word After Another – James A. Autry

A Time For Gratitude

Our lives have been limited. Stay at home. Stay 6 feet away from anybody. No restaurants. No sports bars. No movies. No church. As I write this, there are so many things we are not allowed to do.

So how to respond?

With gratitude.

Not gratitude for the virus or for the hardships and tragedy it has caused. But gratitude for life itself, of course, and also for what we can still do.

However, gratitude doesn’t come naturally. You’d think we’d be born grateful, helpless as we are coming into the world depending on someone else for everything. Instead, from the first moment, we demand what we need. Then, within a few years, our needs are taken for granted and we turn our attention to the things we want, whether we need them or not. Sad to say, a lot of us live our lives in this mode so that rather than focusing on gratitude for what we have, we become preoccupied with what we think we ought to have.

And no, I’m not just talking about teenagers and millennials.

I personally am not immune from this malady. Like many consumers, I struggle with this. Will I have enough for retirement? Will my wife have enough income after I die? What if some terrible condition or accident eats up our savings? I’ve planned well, and by any reasonable measurement, my family and I have no worries, yet the scarcity demons creep in and keep me awake. These anxieties are the enemy of gratitude. To remind myself always to return to gratitude, I have a sentence scripted in fancy calligraphy on my office bulletin board: “What You Have Is Enough.”

I suggest that those are words to live by, particularly in times like these. Indeed, if you live in gratitude, your attitude is always that what you have is enough. Whatever it is, it is enough.

James A. Autry of Des Moines is a well-known author, poet, musician and business consultant. This essay was adapted from his book “Choosing Gratitude; Learning to Love the Life You Have.” His new book, “The White Man Who Stayed,” will be published in September.

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