“I wake up every day in a beautiful, light-filled home. It wasn’t always that way.
Several years ago I went through a divorce that left me a single mom struggling to make ends meet. My kids and I lived in a tiny house I’d rented, and we were living paycheck-to-paycheck. Covering basic needs was stressful, and many days I wondered how we would make it.
I can remember buying a few throw pillows to make our small and rather dark living room feel just a little brighter. At the time, spending even 20 dollars on pillows felt like an irresponsible extravagance – that money could have easily gone to put gas in my car or to pay down bills. But I chose to bring home three brightly colored pillows. Two were a deep magenta color and made of the softest velvet. The third was pink and had a bright yellow dahlia embroidered on it.
Each morning, I trudged out of bed and made my way to the kitchen through the living room, I saw those bright and cheery pillows, and I was thankful for them. I decided that when I woke in the morning, I would not focus on the room’s unwanted qualities. I would focus on the bright, soft, beautiful pillows. I would be grateful.
Soon, I noticed that the more I was thankful for the bright spots, the better I felt. I started to become curious about gratitude, and curious about why it is a cornerstone teaching for so many of our spiritual teachers. The theologian and philosopher Meister Eckhart so beautifully taught, ‘Tf the only prayer you said was thank you, that would be enough.’
Imagine if that were true. If the only prayer we said was thank you, and that would be enough.
While it seemed easy enough to be grateful for the bright spots in life, I began to wonder…what place, if any, does gratitude hold in the midst of a painful experience?
When my son was born three-and-a-half months early, he was intubated and hospitalized. I was terrified we would lose him, and I sat by his incubator daily, often holding back tears. I thought if I did not take my attention off of him, somehow I would ensure his safety. So I walked, rocked, and slept by him for weeks.
One day, in my exhausted state, a nurse gently approached me and said, ‘Honey, have you taken a break lately?’ I was so tired I couldn’t answer her, and instead just cried. She looked at me with gentle eyes and said, ‘He knows his mama loves him, he can feel it. It’s OK for you to go take a shower to go take a nap.’ I took her advice and left the neonatal intensive care unit to shower, and head to my room for some rest.
Before I got into bed, I dropped to my knees to pray. I remember begging God to protect my son, to keep him alive, even though he only weighed two pounds and could not yet breathe on his own. I also remember asking a question. What was the lesson in having my son be born so early, and so fragile? Why was this happening?
As soon as I asked the question, the answer came to my heart. My peace is always with you.
I will never forget that moment. The answer to that question was a gift. It washed over me with a knowing and an assurance that has never left me, even in the most painful of circumstances. It is a knowing that I’m grateful for, and one that has continued to sustain me. I’ve asked this question after a divorce, after the death of family members, after losing a job. And, every time, I’m grateful for the lessons revealed.
If we can look for the bright spots and ask the Universe what is this painful moment trying to teach, we can allow ourselves to become the recipients of countless gifts. Those gifts are priceless, and as we take them along our paths with gratitude, we steady the way for others with a loving and ever-present light.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Michele Mitchum. You can follow her journey on her blog. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
Read more stories about gratitude here:
‘I whipped around fast. ‘You leave him ALONE.’ He covered his ears, flapping his arms. The man snickered under his breath.’: 70-year-old woman thanks special needs mom for opening her eyes to autism, ‘You taught me patience and kindness’
‘I missed my daughter’s honor roll assembly so I could go for a walk and burn off anxiety. It’s not selfish, it’s called self-love.’: Woman responds to mom shamers, ‘taking care of ourselves IS taking care of our kids’
‘When you get home to your spouse, put a smile on. It doesn’t matter how crummy your day went.’: Man reminds us to show gratitude, ‘your favorite people deserve the best version of you at the front door’
Help us show compassion is contagious. SHARE this beautiful story on Facebook with your friends and family.