Gratitude is a sickness suffered by dogs.
At least that’s the opinion of Joseph Stalin–the world’s most proficient mass murderer. I disagree with Stalin on a good many things, but perhaps nowhere more than on his opinion of gratitude. In fact, I’m a fan of the virtue. So is a young friend of mine named (appropriately) Nathan Glad.
Nathan Glad is a grateful boy. He is also a fragile one. He was born with Osteogenesis Imperfecta, (brittle bone disease) which means his bones have the approximate density of uncooked pasta. He was not supposed to survive childbirth and while his mother was in labor, Nathan’s grandparents were out making funeral arrangements. Miraculously, Nathan survived birth, though he was born with twenty-six broken bones. Even more miraculous, Nathan has lived to eight-years-old. The first time I met Nathan, my personal assistant, Diane Glad, (Nathan’s grandmother) introduced me as a famous book author. Nathan looked at me rather nonchalantly and said, “I’m a famous book author too.” (Cheeky lad, I liked him immediately.)
(Photo: Courtesy of Author)
If you think Nathan has a tough life, you’re right. Even though he weighs less than 25 pounds the bones in his legs are still too weak to carry his tiny body, so he will always be confined to a wheelchair. The simplest of motions can break his bones. Once his toddler brother pushed a door against him and broke his femur. Just last week he broke his hip putting ornaments on the Christmas tree. His parents estimate that he has already broken nearly two hundred bones. (Nathan’s primary physician had to write his parents a letter to stop them from being accused of child abuse every time they took Nathan to the hospital.) And every time Nathan breaks a bone it’s excruciatingly painful. Every time.
Of course there is the emotional pain as well. Like a few weeks ago when he overheard some teenage girls making fun of him, the stares and finger pointing of strangers in public or even the embarrassment he feels, as a young man, needing help to go to the bathroom.
In short, Nathan has every reason to complain about the cards life has dealt him. But he doesn’t. In fact, he’s pretty grateful for it all, evidenced by the smile that his parents say rarely leave his face. When Nathan was just three-and-a-half years old, he asked his parents if he could pray. Remarkably, the first thing Nathan said was, “Thank you, God, for my body.” In fact, according to his mother, Rachel Glad, his first words were “Thank you.”
“Every day Nathan says, ‘today’s the best day ever,’” his mother says. “He’s the happiest child you’ll ever meet and believe me, he has more reasons to complain than nearly anyone I know.”
“Nathan is grateful,” his father, Ryan Glad, concurred. “Millions of people worry that their bodies aren’t perfect or beautiful enough, but Nathan’s just glad to have a body. I think that’s why he’s so happy.”
For people like Nathan, it’s not a question of whether the glass is half empty or half full, they’re just happy for the glass.
Aesop taught that Gratitude is the sign of noble souls–and it’s true. Noble souls like Nathan Glad’s. It’s a sign of wise souls as well. “He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.” (Epictetus)
Noble, wise and happy. Too often we forget that joy is not the result of blessings, rather, it’s the result of acknowledging those blessings. Indeed, there are none so miserable as those who will not acknowledge the good in their lives.
Gratitude is a rare upward spiral. When we are grateful for what we have, it brings new things to be grateful for. Studies show that gratitude increases levels of well-being, happiness, energy, health, and empathy. Grateful people sleep better, cope better, have better relationships, less depression and less stress. Gratitude has even been medically proven to reduce headaches, stomach pain, coughing and sore throats. Simply put, grateful people have better lives than those who aren’t.
How does one become more grateful? The same way you learn to play the piano. Commitment and practice. Many people don’t realize that gratitude is not just a serendipitous emotion, but an act of will. In fact, it’s a skill, one that can be learned and deliberately cultivated. Arguably it is the ultimate success skill.
If you’re not feeling gratitude, you are depriving yourself of its power in your life. Make a commitment that Thanksgiving won’t end at midnight on Thursday night, but will live in your heart every day of the year. You deserve that. And, like Nathan, you’ll be grateful you did.
Richard Paul Evans is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the MICHAEL VEY series and THE CHRISTMAS BOX. Richard’s most recent book, THE MISTLETOE PROMISE, is currently the bestselling Holiday book in America. Order now at Amazon.
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Follow Nathan Glad on Facebook at the Nathan Ryan Glad Foundation
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