I had perfect 20-20 vision until I was about forty years old. It was then that I recognized my need to increase the distance between my eyes and anything I was trying to read in order to see it more clearly. By 1996, when I turned forty-two, my arms were not long enough to create the needed space, so I ventured over to Kaiser Hospital in Santa Clara to have my eyes examined. Since that time, I have worn corrective lenses. This simple adjustment enabled me to see the world around me with clarity. The difference was life-changing.
To some extent, I have always been a grateful person. In my childhood, I learned the importance of thanking people for things they did for me. I wrote thank you notes for gifts received for my birthdays and graduations. I was taught that saying “Thank you,” verbally or in writing, was a basic social skill one needed to master. I did.
Despite having learned this important life lesson, I still took many people, experiences, opportunities, and even my aptitudes for granted. I lived in San Francisco, only ten blocks from the Pacific Ocean, yet failed to recognize and appreciate this gift. My parents made tremendous sacrifices to provide a Catholic school education for me, yet I took them and that educational opportunity for granted. I lived in a nice home in a safe neighborhood where I had wonderful neighbors who cared about me and, occasionally, cared for me. These, too, were blessings I failed to adequately appreciate in my youth.
As I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts, I attended a weekend retreat at the Jesuit Retreat Center of Los Altos in November 2006. The theme of the retreat was “gratitude.” The entire experience lasted no longer than forty-four hours, yet it was a life-changing experience for me. Since that time, I have maintained a focus on gratitude and lived my life with an attitude of gratitude.
In a way very similar to my experience of getting glasses at Kaiser in 1996, which allowed me to see things around me with clarity, the weekend retreat experience provided a new lens through which I was able to see and experience my life — the lens of gratitude. For almost a dozen years now, I have been blessed with the ability to view the people around me, my experiences, opportunities with which I am presented, the God-given aptitudes with which I’ve been blessed, and even my health, through this new lens.
My focus on gratitude has been quite beneficial — to me and to those around me. I find that I am more patient, more understanding, more compassionate, and far less judgmental than I was in my younger days. I have a much greater appreciation for the beauty of nature and for the presence of God in my life. And research on the benefits of gratefulness are quite consistent in showing that there are tremendous health advantages, both physical and mental, to those who maintain a focus on gratitude.
Through my recently-published book, A Moment’s Pause for Gratitude, I hope to inspire others to focus on gratitude in their own lives, thereby enabling them to reap the benefits of living life with a genuine attitude of gratitude!