The Life Saving Power of Gratitude

 In Inner First Class

As the nation celebrated Thanksgiving yesterday, I was pondering a curious thought. What does gratitude “feel” like? If you had to explain it to someone, what would you say?

About three years ago I met a man who was at my workplace with an insurance company. After meeting with him, I knew there was something “off” about him. I wasn’t sure exactly what it was. One of my co-workers said she felt the same thing. The following week we learned that he had committed suicide just a few days after we had met with him.

It was a stunning piece of news. We had gotten the feeling that he didn’t want to be there. We were right. He didn’t want to be there at all.

Because my office handled wills and estate planning, we were in the very unique situation of having a copy of his suicide note. As I read the last words this man would ever put down on paper, my heart broke in two.

The letter was cold. It primarily consisted of several pages of his bank account information and a list of his personal belongings along with where his family could sell them and what price they could expect to fetch for them. At the very end in just a few sentences he addressed the only question anyone would ever have for him. All he said about why he did it…was that he was unhappy.

Although I had met him, I didn’t really know this man. I did, however, have a working relationship with his parents for nearly ten years and knew them to be generous and thoughtful people. He also had a sister that he had a good relationship with. He had a home of his own and a job. He lived in a prosperous area of the richest country on earth. These are things other people would have given limbs for.

And yet he had no gratitude for any of it. I wonder if he had been able to truly find one thing he was thankful for if it would have made a difference. If that one moment of gratitude could have been enough to push him through one more day. If that one thing could have been enough to make him get the help that he so clearly needed. To be thankful for one thing opens our eyes to more things to be grateful for. Perhaps if this had been the case for this man his parents wouldn’t have just celebrated one more Thanksgiving Day without their son.

So what does gratitude feel like? It feels like a hug from a child. It feels like a “cold one” at the end of a long day of hard work. It feels like looking at your favorite piece of art or listening to your favorite song. It feels like anything that makes you inhale and exhale with an “aaaaahhhhh!” It feels like all the things that make life worth living. If you can’t feel gratitude, you risk losing it all, for in the end this appreciation is all we really have.


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