Gratitude in Steps
Gratitude did not come easily to me. You would think differently after living among extreme poverty in Brazil, but I can be hard-headed and even a slow learner at times. Then, pregnant with my second child, I felt life was at the worst. I struggled with the pregnancy – being utterly miserable. To top it off, my husband and I were so poor. I wondered if there would ever be a solution to our never-ending lack of finances.
We lived in a duplex on the west side of our city which was accessible by three major roadways, each of which climbed up a hill. (I called it a mountain during the time.) Our little $300 car chugged its way up the road. In order to get to the top, we’d step on the accelerator, pressing it to the floorboards until we reached 60 to 70 mph. Never taking the accelerator off the floorboard, the car (affectionately referred to as ‘turd’) would be lucky to be going 30 mph as it leveled off. As the speed limit was 50 mph, cars sped by in the left lane, honking and even gesturing obscenities! I longed for a decent car. How could life be worse?
Plugging away up the hill one time, I sat in the passenger seat. I looked over in time to witness the passenger in the car passing on the left glare and flip me off. I was devastated and embarrassed. I wanted to slip down that seat and disappear! Silently, I said a small prayer in my heart that went something like this, “Please help me forgive that person and to be grateful for life.”
Alongside the roadway, the vegetation was as dismal as my attitude. Brown. Lifeless. Weeds. How could I be happy and grateful when even the foliage screamed out depression and death?
Amid the brown poked up one small yellow flower in contrast to the fall undergrowth. Just one small splash of color in a sea of sepia. I smiled and nearly laughed. A perfect analogy for me. Even if the world were just sepia, I could be a splash of color. I thanked God for the small flower and smiled all the way home.
That didn’t mean I was cured of negativity. Far from it. But I did try to remember the flower. On days when I just could find something to be grateful for, I closed my eyes and listened. Chirps of birds. Cartoons for my oldest daughter. The life inside of me. There were so many things in my life. I’d been so occupied with the sadness and negative items that I’d missed what was best.
Years later I sat in an auditorium and listened to a speaker. She asked the audience who thought they were wealthy. If they felt wealthy, they should stand up. In an auditorium of over 500+ people only a few stood. She asked them to remain standing. She told everyone they should all be standing. Wealthy was relative. She began to read some statistics about poverty in the world.
As you read some of these statistics, ask yourself, “Are you wealthy?”
- There are 343 million people in the world living in poverty.
- 22,000 children die each day due to poverty.
- 2/3 of these people have someone in their home with severe malnutrition. That equates to 226 million people.
- 805 million people worldwide do not have enough food to eat.
- Hunger is the number one cause of death in the world.
- 1/4 of all humans live without electricity — approximately 1.6 billion people.
- 40% of people living in poverty have to walk 45 minutes to get clean water -if they can get it at all (137 million people). Diarrhea caused by inadequate drinking water, sanitation, and hand hygiene kills an estimated 842,000 people every year globally, or approximately 2,300 people per day.
- 90% (308 million people) have no proper sanitation and have to relieve themselves outside.
- 274 million people have a dirt floor.
- At least 80% of humanity lives on less than $10 a day.
- Poverty is defined as making less than $1.25 a day – a measurement used by the World Bank.
- Nearly 1/2 of the world’s population — more than 3 billion people — live on less than $2.50 a day.
- In 2013, 10.7 percent of the world’s population lived on less than $1.90 a day.
So, are you wealthy? Can you think of a reason to be grateful?
Tracy Atkinson, mother of six, lives in the Midwest with her husband and spirited long-haired miniature dachshunds. She is a teacher, having taught elementary school to higher education, holding degrees in elementary education and a master’s in higher education. Her passion is researching, studying and investigating the attributes related to self-directed learners and learning styles. She has published several titles, including MBTI Learning Styles: A Practical Approach, The Art of Learning Journals, Calais: The Annals of the Hidden, Lemosa: The Annals of the Hidden, Book Two, Rachel’s 8 and Securing Your Tent. She is currently working on a non-fiction text exploring the attributes of self-directed learners: The Five Characteristics of Self-directed Learners.