As Thanksgiving approaches, it’s a good time to talk about gratitude. This has been a favorite topic of Thomas S. Monson, president of the Mormons. One of his most popular talks is entitled, “Finding Joy in the Journey” and that joy is found partially through gratitude for what we have, rather than focusing on what we lack.
Choosing to Focus on Blessings
Many years ago I was touched by the story of Borghild Dahl. She was born in Minnesota in 1890 of Norwegian parents and from her early years suffered severely impaired vision. She had a tremendous desire to participate in everyday life despite her handicap and, through sheer determination, succeeded in nearly everything she undertook. Against the advice of educators, who felt her handicap was too great, she attended college, receiving her bachelor of arts degree from the University of Minnesota. She later studied at Columbia University and the University of Oslo. She eventually became the principal of eight schools in western Minnesota and North Dakota.
She wrote the following in one of the 17 books she authored: “I had only one eye, and it was so covered with dense scars that I had to do all my seeing through one small opening in the left of the eye. I could see a book only by holding it up close to my face and by straining my one eye as hard as I could to the left.”7
Miraculously, in 1943—when she was over 50 years old—a revolutionary procedure was developed which finally restored to her much of the sight she had been without for so long. A new and exciting world opened up before her. She took great pleasure in the small things most of us take for granted, such as watching a bird in flight, noticing the light reflected in the bubbles of her dishwater, or observing the phases of the moon each night. She closed one of her books with these words: “Dear … Father in heaven, I thank Thee. I thank Thee.”8
Borghild Dahl, both before and after her sight was restored, was filled with gratitude for her blessings.
In 1982, two years before she died, at the age of 92 her last book was published. Its title: Happy All My Life. Her attitude of thankfulness enabled her to appreciate her blessings and to live a full and rich life despite her challenges.
Thomas S. Monson, “Finding Joy in the Journey,” Ensign, Nov 2008, 84–87
An Attitude of Gratitude
Like the leprosy of yesteryear are the plagues of today. They linger; they debilitate; they destroy. They are to be found everywhere. Their pervasiveness knows no boundaries. We know them as selfishness, greed, indulgence, cruelty, and crime, to identify but a few. Surfeited with their poison, we tend to criticize, to complain, to blame, and, slowly but surely, to abandon the positives and adopt the negatives of life.
A popular refrain from the 1940s captured the thought:
Accentuate the positive;
Eliminate the negative.
Latch on to the affirmative;
Don’t mess with Mr. In-between. 1
Good advice then. Good advice now.
This is a wonderful time to be living here on earth. Our opportunities are limitless. While there are some things wrong in the world today, there are many things right, such as teachers who teach, ministers who minister, marriages that make it, parents who sacrifice, and friends who help.
We can lift ourselves, and others as well, when we refuse to remain in the realm of negative thought and cultivate within our hearts an attitude of gratitude. If ingratitude be numbered among the serious sins, then gratitude takes its place among the noblest of virtues.
Thomas S. Monson, “An Attitude of Gratitude,” Ensign, May 1992, 54