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Let Gratitude Be Your Target

Here we are, smack dab in November, with the annual refrain, ‘It’s good to give thanks EVERY DAY, not only on Thanksgiving.’ Right.

I speak mainly to myself when I ask: How many of us are truly in touch with this on a daily basis?

The good news is that the Hebrew word for Jew, ‘yehudi,’ stems from the word ‘hoda’ah,’ meaning ‘thanks.’ This means that the essence of gratitude is inherently within us. Our sages teach that we should greet each day upon awakening with ‘modeh ani’, a short sentence thanking G-d for returning our souls to our bodies and granting us the fresh start of a new day. The theme of gratitude continues to resonate as we recite blessings on almost every arena of our lives until our heads hit the pillow that night.

Ahhhh….to be that focused all the time. But I’m only human.

I’ll admit some mornings don’t start quite so sublime. Instead, I shoot myself into my day like an arrow escaping the grips of an archer. The sacred ‘modeh ani’ prayer is recited while taking note of the weather and doing a mental inventory of my closet to decide what to wear. So much is accomplished in those few moments. Or is it…?

Still, I find that even on the mornings when I don’t focus as I should, the fact that I devoted even a few moments to an act of being grateful sets the tone for the day. I know I’ll eventually land on target, although it may be more of a challenge to hit the bull’s-eye.

Striving to live in gratitude is a theme that extends across the globe, even to our Home in Netanya. Although the girls who live there originate from troubled backgrounds, our staff has prepared a dynamic program to encourage them to notice and be thankful for all the good that surrounds them. Awards are presented for each expression of gratitude.

The staff reports an overwhelmingly positive response to this program and remains impressed with our sweet girls and their insights. They’ve noticed more expressions of gratitude upon receiving things as well as a renewed respect; perhaps this is because the girls are more aware of the kindnesses being done for them.

My friend, these precious, vulnerable girls have given us a new standard to live up to! So where should we begin?

Here are some steps to gratitude that inspire me:

1)      Realize what you have. We can’t be grateful unless we know what we have. We must open our eyes to the abundance in our lives. There’s always someone who has less – and is even grateful for it! Before you discount what you have, remember that there’s someone out there who would love to be in your shoes. Literally: www.abcnews.com/track-star-loses-feet-to-frostbite

2)      Be happy with what you have.In order to be grateful, we must first be satisfied and happy with what we’re grateful for. This reminds me of a conversation that took place while driving carpool recently:

  • Boy:  Mr. X has so many sports cars – and they’re all so COOL!
  • Me (thinking, What a great opportunity to teach about being happy with what we have!): Wow, that sounds great. But, you know, it’s really important to be happy with whatever we have.
  • Boy (pauses a few moments): Well, Mr. X is really happy with what HE has!

Cute. But you and I know that, most likely, Mr. X isn’t as happy with what he has as he might appear. Others think they would be if they had the same thing. Gratitude takes effort; it’s much easier to think about what we’re lacking than what we actually have.

3)      Recognize the source of what you have. I’ll never forget when my older girls were little and we received a package

Thanking Tata Diane

from their generous Tata Diane, filled with goodies and toys. I knew they were eager to rip it open and enjoy its contents, but I still remember sitting with them on the living room floor and taking the time to discuss everything that went into receiving the package: The thought in Tata Diane’s mind (and heart) to send it; her trip to the store to lovingly select everything, purchase it all and shlep it home; the time she spent carefully packaging each item; her special trip to the post office, even the post office’s efforts in delivering it (no, the USPS is not obsolete just yet). I’m sure that tracing these steps helped internalize the gratitude my girls expressed to Tata Diane in their phone call to thank her later that day.

At this point, a beautiful thing happens: A yearning to express our thanks emerges. Merely feeling gratitude isn’t enough. It’s time for action, a phone call, thank you note or another gesture.

In this inspiring clip, thoughtful gestures are relayed to others, like a kindness chain that eventually winds up benefitting the person who started it all. Note the eagerness in these individuals to pass on the good that was done to them:

Someone once said, ‘Gratitude is when memory is stored in the heart and not the mind.’ Here at Lev LaLev, we strive to open and enter the hearts of generous people from around the world. As I write this, I just received an email from one such man, our good friend Armin Kreis, who told me of his recent visit to Jerusalem, which has experienced heavy rain as of late.

As he and others stood in the shelter of a crowded bus stop on Ben Yehuda Street, an old woman walked slowly towards them, glancing around, then to the sky. Suddenly, she lifted her arms and shouted to the heavens, “Geshem! Geshem, Boruch Hashem! (Rain! Rain! Thank G-d!)”

Profoundly moved by the scene, he claims he will never forget the way she displayed her gratitude for rain, something most people complain about, with a short prayer to G-d.

And neither will we.

Do you have any thoughts or stories about gratitude? We’d love to post them here.

Looking forward to hearing from you!

Rachel Weinstein

Director of Development

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