A thought popped into my mind yesterday morning: What if I go throughout the day focusing on what I have instead of what I don’t have?
I’m not sure where this thought came from, exactly; I guess “the Holy Spirit” is as good an answer as any. I’m glad it appeared, though, because although I strive for an attitude of gratitude, dissatisfaction can creep in, in rather insidious ways.
But with this new attitude in the forefront of my mind, yesterday was better than it would have been. Instead of wishing for more time to work on my next writing project, I was grateful for the hour I did have while my kids were playing with their cousins. Instead of wishing for a bigger house, I was grateful for a cozy one that fits our family’s needs. And on, and on.
I wrote a week or so ago about my great-grandmother Helen Cary Keyt Wolf, and the “Button Box” of poems that she wrote from the 1930s to the 1960s. She was certainly someone who lacked much of what we would consider essential for happiness. Raising five children during the Depression years, with a husband who would leave and come back at various times without warning, she lived with no small amount of financial and relational uncertainty. I am sure she had plenty of moments where despair and envy were close to the surface.
And yet even then, there are things to be grateful for. Her writings show that she knew this, and tried to live by it. I am sure that there were times when her resolve wavered and such optimism was hard to maintain. But we have evidence, written in her own hand, that she knew the value of focusing on the positive, and that she made the choice to recognize the blessings in her life – her children above all.
Here is one of her poems, written sometime in the thirties. It captures this philosophy well. .
My Shopping List
by Helen Cary Keyt Wolf
What would I do if I had
A dollar or two today?
For son number one,
I’d buy a new shirt.
For son number two, new shoes.
For son number three, a pair of pants
And a bonnet for baby.
For my young miss
I’d get some cloth
For her to make a new dress.
Then perhaps some curtains I’d buy
For windows in our sunroom.
Some new pots and pans
Some tea glasses, too -
Oh, I have lots of plans.
But since I haven’t that dollar
I’ll put a patch on a shirt,
About shoes, well, I can’t do much
But give them an extra shine.
I’ll lengthen and press a pair of pants
And make a bonnet for baby
And look through the chest
Perhaps I can find
Something to make a “new dress”.
The windows? Well, I’ll just leave plain
For it would be a pity to
Shut out the view
Of roses and bushes and vines.
The pans will have to do for now.
We can use cups for glasses.
Oh, it’s not hard to substitute
If one goes singing about it.
What are the blessings YOU can focus on today?