Every morning here in Dallas I take a twenty-minute train ride to where I work at Southwest Airlines. I’ve had the opportunity of speaking with many passengers in the early morning hours and in the evening after work. One passenger I’ve chatted with several times is an African American pastor. We’ve gotten in several conversations about religion and recently about gratitude. He gave me a card from his church that asked, “What if you woke up today with only the things you thanked God for yesterday?”
This question made me realize how much I need to work on feeling gratitude for what I have in my life. I’m sure you can relate as well. It’s easy to forget about all the wonderful gifts we have in our life already when one trial seeks to overpower us and make misery the focus of our existence.
On Monday that was me. I was flustered as Thanksgiving plans I had been planning on for over a month were radically changed and I was unsure of where I was going to spend the holiday. I spent many hours contemplating what to do. During this time frame, I decided to participate in a volunteer service activity at Southwest HQ right after work to get my mind off my worries. A Southwest Airlines plane was pulling into a neighboring hangar filled with Kidd’s Kids participants. What Kidd’s Kids seeks to do is provide chronically ill or physically challenged kids with the opportunity to travel to Disneyland. Southwest Airlines helps this Texas based charity organization by providing these kids with free flight privileges to and from Orlando, Florida. Southwest Airlines always seeks to add the right touch at these events. When this plane was returning to Dallas, it was icy cold due to a winter storm in the area. My department decided to lighten up the evening by creating, “Welcome home!” signs and waiting for these participants at the hangar. The plan was to cheer, give high fives, and to help where possible as these passengers stepped off the plane via a staircase. A small metal staircase was pushed to the plane and the doors were flung open. I cheered with my department and other interns as these families stepped off the plane. Most of these kids had to be carried off the plane by their parents as most couldn’t walk without any support. I watched one beautiful Hispanic girl around nine being carried off the plane by her father. As we cheered for her, she gave us all the biggest smile and waved to us. She even gave me a high five as she was carried past me. Before long, I was having trouble cheering. It wasn’t because I didn’t want to participate. It was because I was moved to tears by this optimistic girl. I realized how selfish I had been and how I had let one small trial make me forget all I had to be grateful for.
On Wednesday night, I went to see the new movie, “The Book Thief” with a Czech co-worker of mine. “The Book Thief” centers on an adopted girl named Liesel and her new parents who help hide a Jewish man during the Holocaust. During the movie, I became more grateful for the great life I had as I watched scenes of bombing raids, book burnings, religious persecution, poverty, and loss. My Czech co-worker and I both got in a conversation after the movie just talking about how good we had it compared to those we had just watched in the movie.
This Thanksgiving, I would like to issue you a challenge to take with you after stuffing yourself. Learn to be grateful and see all that you’ve been blessed with especially in dark times. This is a lesson I am still seeking to perfect but I know that as you look at life in this perspective that those dark times will seem less dark and that you will have greater strength to go on through those trials when you realize just how good you have it. If you’re having a really rough day, make a list on paper or in your mind of privileges you have that other may not. Focus on those around you and less on yourself. Although your trial may not get smaller, I can promise you that you will have greater strength to endure by focusing on all that God has blessed you with.