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Monica Pickard spent twenty years of her adult life as a child care provider. During that time, with the help of her husband, she raised her son who has been diagnosed with Autism and Developmental Delay. She learned to navigate a world that was new to her – the world of Special Needs. She now shares these experiences and the wisdom they taught her, with love and heartfelt compassion for the human condition.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Gratitude

“The miracle of gratitude is that it shifts your perception to such an extent that it changes the world you see.” ~ Dr. Robert Holden

       Gratitude is an extremely powerful force. It is important to our lives because it helps us focus our attention on what is important. As the opening quote says, it changes the world you see. In fact, it changes the world you experience. I believe that expressing gratitude is the most important prayer. It places your focus directly into your consciousness and moves your loving energy out into the universe. It tells God that you recognize what has been given to you and done for you simply because you exist. It is an acknowledgment of God’s love and it expresses your love for God. I have always considered myself a grateful person. It turned out, I didn’t truly understand gratitude.
       Several years ago I finally began to see that, while I was appreciative of all I had been given, there was a depth of gratitude that I had not reached. Prior to that, I did not know that to complain about something, even something I would not want to be without, was expressing ingratitude. My attitude was, ‘I’m thankful for_____, but...’ Since then, I have learned that the word ‘but’ means: Forget everything I just said, here’s what I really think. It was my husband who made me realize I was not fully grateful. He had told me this several times, but I couldn’t understand why he would think that about me.
Ray and Joshua in 1991
       I was constantly complaining about our house. It needed a lot of maintenance and it seemed like we were always behind in fixing things. My husband used to tell me that I didn’t appreciate what I had and that no matter where I lived, I wouldn’t be happy. I always argued back and said that I did appreciate what I had but that I just wished it were better. I can’t tell you how many times we had the same conversation. Then one day, after I learned about the human ego and how it affects our minds, I was complaining and my husband said it to me again.
       “You don’t appreciate anything you have. If you were to move to a brand new house eventually you would find something to complain about and it wouldn’t take long for you to become unhappy.”
       Once again I argued with him, but something was different. This time, I could not make my argument with sincerity. Something had clicked in my mind and I understood what he meant. I had been reading all these things about happiness and how to obtain it, and in that instant, I knew he was right. Give a big round of applause for Ray, everybody! I don’t tell him that often enough and here it is in writing!
“Appreciation is the highest form of prayer, for it acknowledges the presence of good wherever you shine the light of your thankful thoughts.” ~ Alan Cohen
       Ray had finally broken through my ego and made me understand that I could go deeper in my gratitude and appreciate our home on another level. I was not accepting things the way they were and I was not feeling the full appreciation for simply having a shelter. He made me see my own role in the way our home was maintained. This house was protecting me from the elements and that fact wasn’t even part of my awareness. Suddenly this house became so dear to me, flaws and all, it brings tears to my eyes when I think about it. I realized this house, which was built it 1900, had been a home for my family for most of my adult life. It had done its job regardless of my attitude. It did the same job for many people before us, as well. Seeing this house in a new way made me want to take better care of it than I had been. Now I truly was grateful for it and the gratitude I felt changed my world. The maintenance of this house moved up on my list of priorities and things began to change. I made a list of all the things I could do in the short term, without spending much money, to spruce the place up. Then I made a list of long term goals to save for. Slowly things started getting done. We fixed things long neglected and freshened it up inside and out. There are still a few things left to do, but we are getting there. Now, I am proud of this house, not just because of the changes but because, with or without the changes, it has served my family well.

Ray and Joshua on Joshua's 1st birthday

       Coming to this realization about our house I began to see that there was a ripple effect of not being deeply grateful. I had only been mildly grateful for the house and, therefore, I had not given full appreciation for the money it took to buy and maintain it, or for my husband’s efforts to provide for us. I began to remember what it had been like when I thought we would never be able to buy a house and I started to think of how far we had come over the years and my husband’s role in our success. My husband had gone to work every day, not only to provide shelter and food but to provide comforts in this home for his family. He had done it willingly because he knew I wanted it. It had never mattered to him if we owned a house. He always said that he could live quite easily and happily without it. He could have done any other less stressful job just to get by and provide the basics, but he stayed at the stressful job because the pay was better. He did it for me and for Joshua. His sacrifice gave me choices, specifically the choice to be at home with Joshua. I had a home daycare which enabled me to earn money from home. During the times when enrollment was down, I didn’t even have to consider getting a job outside the home and putting Josh in someone else’s care because of my husband and what he was willing to do for us.
       My heart is filled with thankfulness for my husband. I now realize that my complaining was a display of ingratitude for the house and for my husband. I began to see him in a new light, understanding that he was playing a role in my life, without acknowledgment and without being appreciated for it. My way of thinking had been that it was his role as a husband to do that for his family. The truth is, he had a choice not to do it, but he did it anyway. He was not being fulfilled in his job and he was under stress much of the time, but he did it anyway. He continues to do it anyway and I can never express how grateful I am for him. Some might say society pressures us to do certain things in life, like work at a job you may not like in order to support your family, but in the end, we all have choices to do what we do, or not. We shouldn’t overlook the choices of our loved ones just because society says it is their duty.

       Many of us tend to think that if people loved us they would do the things we want them to do and refrain from doing things we don’t want them to do. Women especially have this thought quite often. When someone does not live up to our expectation of the way we think they should love us we overlook the things they are doing to show their love. We take them for granted. The fact that my husband went to a stressful job every day was his way of showing us love. It is our task to look for the ways they do show it, not for the ways we want them to show it. We must appreciate everyone for who they are, not who we want them to be. That is unconditional love and it shows them and God our gratitude for all that is given.
       When we can be deeply and truly grateful for our possessions without becoming attached to them and placing them above our family, it puts everything in our world into perspective. We begin to see that our loved ones are what we can’t live without, not the possessions. Our loved ones are important in our lives. Our possessions are nice and comfortable, but not mandatory. This house is not mandatory, but my husband’s happiness and well-being are. I hope he knows how grateful I am for him and that my gratitude and love are not dependent upon how much money he makes or what he can do for me.
       I am grateful for your attention. See you next time!


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