Giving thanks in all things changes outlook on life

Kindergarten students, including Rachael Henry, center, dressed as Pilgrims and Native Americans, take part in a special Thanksgiving feast Nov. 19 at St. Joseph School in Penfield, N.Y.  The holiday, celebrated Nov. 22 this year, commemorates the Pilgrims' celebration of a good harvest in 1621. (CNS photo/Mike Crupi, Catholic Courier)
Kindergarten students, including Rachael Henry, center, dressed as Pilgrims and Native Americans, take part in a special Thanksgiving feast Nov. 19 at St. Joseph School in Penfield, N.Y. The holiday, celebrated Nov. 22 this year, commemorates the Pilgrims’ celebration of a good harvest in 1621. (CNS photo/Mike Crupi, Catholic Courier)

[dropcap type=”3″]T[/dropcap]hanksgiving is just around the corner and I don’t know about you, but I can hardly wait. The family, the friends, the food, the fun — what’s not to love? The annual celebration is our opportunity to realize just how blessed we are.

Joyce Coronel is interim managing editor of The Catholic Sun and author of “A Martyr’s Crown.” Opinions expressed are the writers’ and not necessarily the views of The Catholic Sun or the Diocese of Phoenix.
Joyce Coronel is interim managing editor of The Catholic Sun and author of “A Martyr’s Crown.” Opinions expressed are the writers’ and not necessarily the views of The Catholic Sun or the Diocese of Phoenix.

What if we tried to do that every day, and not just the last Thursday of November?

Julie Smith, a mother of five, was challenged by her teenage son Dominic to do just that as part of “The Gratitude Challenge.” Maybe you’ve seen it on Facebook.

A friend, colleague or in this case, a family member, challenges three people to list three things each day that they are thankful for in their lives. After a week, those challenged are supposed to nominate three other people.

Julie, who recently lost her father, said the endeavor helps put things in perspective.

“When you’re having a hard day it turns it around,” Julie said. “It pushes you to a better place, realizing how blessed you are.”

Dr. Ross Porter, a clinical psychologist and convert to Catholicism, spoke about the positive effects of gratitude on Catholic Answers, a call-in program that’s broadcast on Immaculate Heart Radio 1310 AM. It’s no accident, he said, that the root word for gratitude and grace is the same.

“It helps you to set your sights on heaven and realize that we live in a providential universe,” Porter said. “A grateful approach to life helps you to see God at work in all things.”

Julie said the gratitude challenge has encouraged her to be thankful for difficulties in life and to see the growth and fruit that came from them. The sorrow over losing her father helped her to realize how much she loved him — and how much he loved her.

“Thanking God for the hard things suddenly makes them seem like gifts,” she said. “I miss my father so much and that helped me realize how blessed I was.”

Both Julie and Porter agreed that gratitude is a choice that we can make and that making it mindfully boosts our spirits.

“I miss my father so much and that helped me realize how blessed I was.”

“It catapults you into a more positive, grateful place,” Julie said. “It makes you more consciously aware of your thoughts during the day. Are they grateful ones or worries?”

Practicing gratitude can help us fight pride, the deadliest of the seven deadly sins, Porter said. That’s because when we aren’t grateful, we become inwardly focused and develop an entitlement attitude.

“A grateful approach to life helps you to see God at work in all things,” Porter said. “The good things, the bad things — God’s in it all and He wouldn’t allow it if He couldn’t bring good out of it.”

Just this week I interviewed a woman who had experienced many difficulties in life. When she was a young mother, her newborn son died and she was so sick herself that her parents had to bury the baby. Then, her husband was sent to Vietnam and later her teenage son was sent to Iraq. That was before she underwent treatment for advanced cancer.

And yet, when you speak with Rosemary, what you see is a person who is focused on others and their needs. She’s thankful for her Catholic faith and said that without it, she wouldn’t even be here.

So consider this your challenge, dear readers. Pick up a pen. Write down three things you are thankful for in your life. Do this each day for a week and watch as your focus begins to shift toward the giver of all gifts, our Lord and God, who watches over all and wants only our good. Let us give thanks to Him in all things each day.