Several months ago I participated in a thirty-day gratitude challenge initiated on FaceBook by a close friend – not exactly the most original of ideas. Numerous sites had posed similar gratitude challenges at the time. But it did get me thinking about gratitude on a regular daily basis–both the concept and the reality. Every single day, for an entire month, those of us who agreed to sign on took one challenge: “write about something for which you’re grateful today but that’s different from the gratitude you wrote about yesterday.”
Gratitude–so what exactly is that? Within the context of our complex, high stress, western life styles, too many Americans take for granted the most obvious – albeit intangible, gifts of our lives. Yes, it very well may be cliché to say, “I’m grateful for living in a free country,” or “I’m thankful for my health,” especially when, during our conscious hours, we’re bombarded with messages that prioritize material acquisitions.
During my gratitude challenge, writing about a different gratitude each day became progressively more challenging – a total surprise to me. Suddenly, one day mid-challenge, I really got it! I grasped how much we assume our freedom is a basic human right, an entitlement, simply just a part of being alive. Few Americans have grown up without it.
The first week, the posts were overwhelmingly trite and superficial. One participant was grateful that the car dealer had his new car on time, another for an Aruba vacation, a third for having won a bet with his wife. But as the gratitude challenge calendar clicked forward, war and unrest erupted across the Middle East. And during the remainder of our gratitude challenge, it seemed that all our posts evolved – thankfully! Gone were the materialistic pitches. Expressions of gratitude for living in a free country began to dominate the screen. Each post – while different from those posted the prior day as required by the rules – elaborated upon gratitude for freedom. Amazingly, it seemed there was no end to the ways in which we can be grateful for the freedoms we tend to take so much for granted.
I’m an independent sociologist and writer and teach research methodology to non-fiction writers. I’m completing a short story collection, have published essays, short stories and food articles. I’m co-host of www.expendableedibles.com and www.expendableedibles.com/blog. Contact me through my writer’s website, www.marlenesamuels.com.