I know so many things in the world seem like they are on fire these days. Our nation appears to be sliding into an authoritarian regime. Money for housing, education, and health services seems to disappear a bit more each month. Violence seems to be lurking in far too many neighborhoods throughout the city. Black people are still searching for justice and equality in all areas of their lives. And thousands upon thousands of people have died from the coronavirus, leaving families and communities feeling devastating losses. Despite what feels like a roaming dumpster fire, I am feeling incredibly grateful. Hopefully these next few paragraphs will remind us of all of the beauty and goodness that still surrounds us during these turbulent times.
What I think is helping my relatively positive outlook on life is something my grandmother said to me many years ago. I think I was lamenting about something I didn’t get at school or work and she said, “Instead of focusing on what you don’t have, just say thank you.” My grandmother was a much more religious woman than I, but I interpreted her sage wisdom as having an overall attitude of gratitude. Sometimes we want things that aren’t for us. Sometimes we need to be patient. Sometimes we just need to focus on all of the abundance that already surrounds us.
Each morning when I wake, I remember my grandmother saying “Thank you” as her first words. Thank you for being able to open my eyes, move my limbs, see a new day, and experience life for yet another day. The small act of pausing to say “thank you” fills me with an overwhelming sense of gratitude, knowing that each morning some people don’t wake up or some people awake and their loved ones do not. Tomorrow is not promised, so that thankfulness I feel each morning is real.
Living in a major city, it is sometimes difficult to hear the morning birds, but if you listen closely, you will hear the sounds of nature all around you. Birds chirping, trees rustling, and if you are lucky, you can feel the warmth of the sun streaming through your window. These minor moments of pause and reflection can remind us that the fast pace of our lives can be slowed just a bit with a five second pause here and there throughout the day.
So many of us are filled with stress and anxiety due to the uncertainty of the present moment. A dear friend was feeling a bit paralyzed by this moment. Therefore, I suggested she start a gratitude journal. That is, starting each day writing in a notebook and listing 10 things she is thankful for. Try it for a week and you will see all the great wonders that surround you, no matter where you are.
Christina Greer, Ph.D., is an associate professor at Fordham University, the author of “Black Ethnics: Race, Immigration, and the Pursuit of the American Dream,” and the co-host of the podcast FAQ-NYC.