Sunday, November 15, 2009
Welcome, Cheryl Norman
Keep the Gratitude Attitude
It’s so easy to feel blue and down about the negatives in your life, but you have the power to resist. I learned from the master, my dad─God rest his soul—that you get what you expect, so always expect the best. Make a habit of feeling thankful for all that is right instead of dwelling on what is wrong.
Dad grew up during the great Depression. My grandmother raised him (and my aunt and uncle) to focus on God’s blessings as a way to keep the Devil at bay. Dad practiced that philosophy all his life, even when he faced his final days with leukemia at age 82. He didn’t lie in the hospital bed and feel sorry for himself; he met every nurse and med tech with a smile and strived to make them laugh. He told everyone how blessed he was to have the best wife, daughters, and grandchildren a person could have. As long as he was able to talk, he was able to smile, no matter the discomfort or pain.
The chaplain at the hospital gave a eulogy at his funeral, and she talked about her duties in the terminally ill wing of the hospital. Often it tried her spirit to comfort and cheer patients and their families who faced impending death. She then said she looked forward to visiting my dad because his attitude cheered and comforted her. She looked to him as needing her less than she needed him.
What a powerful legacy! She ended the service by challenging us all to live as he did, by wearing a smile even when things are discouraging in our lives, to greet others with a smile as an ambassador of peace. When Dad died, I didn’t think I could ever feel happy again. It was, at that point in my life, my saddest experience. Yet the chaplain’s directive to wear a smile in Dad’s honor kept me going. Sometimes the smile was forced, but I smiled just the same. Eventually I emerged from the grief and sadness, and the smiles came more easily.
What I learned—and what I want to pass on—is how powerful the gratitude attitude is. You can choose happiness and optimism by focusing on the good things in your life. Even in your darkest hour, you can find something for which to give thanks. I show this with my characters in my books as well. They learn to recognize the gifts they have and discover that what they think they want is not necessary to their happiness.
I have so many reasons to feel gratitude in my life it would fill a book in itself. I know because I once challenged myself to list all my blessings, and it ran on for pages and pages. Try it. You will find there’s no time left for listing your sorrows. It may take practice to form the habit of feeling thankful and keeping an optimistic attitude, but the rewards are worth it.
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