Here’s the text of the Thought for The Week – Sunday 7 February 2010
Am I the only one who struggles to get through these dark months, and long for the longer days, the chance of sun and a sense of waking up from enforced hibernation. Snow’s fun, but when it returned on Wednesday was I the only one who thought it was getting a bit wearing now. The dark nights are good for feeling snug in a warm house, watching good telly, but won’t it be nice to walk around in the early evening in the sunlight. Dark mornings are great when you have chance to sleep in, but it’s horrid going to work and getting home again in the dark.
I could go on. I’m good at this sort of thing. It’s called moaning, whinging, whining. I’ve got loads of things I can moan about – it’s not just the time of year. I’m really quite skilled at it – bins that aren’t emptied, traffic jams, missed buses, gas companies that get you all mixed up. No end of topics. I can bore for ever. I’m an expert. It’s not a gift, it comes naturally and easily to me.
But I’ve had to interrupt this natural stream of consciousness recently because of a challenge. It was New Years Eve and a friend challenged a few of us to find three things to be grateful for each day. Just 3. And all we had to do was to jot them down before we went to sleep each day. Not much of a challenge. A bit of a pain to remember to do it. And I felt a bit daft doing it. But 3 things. No problem.
The first day was easy. New Year’s Day. A holiday. Free time, no stress, no pressure. The next day was trickier – it involved missed flights, cold trains, lots of extra cash being paid out. But still one of the things I was grateful for was just getting home. And so it went.
And then normality set in. The normal rhythm of life. And some days three things became more of a challenge to search out. I mean I could cheat and make stuff up – thanks for a roof over my head and the rest, but I wanted to do it with integrity and only put down what I meant. So I had to start really looking for these three things. I found myself stopping in the day to register things I was grateful for. The woman who served me in the shop really well. The meal that just hit the spot. The music I heard that lifted my heart. The friends around me. The late night chat with my wife. The sound of the front door being slammed that signalled the kids all being home.
Ordinary stuff. But things to be really grateful for. And the more I started to pay attention to this, the less time I had for moaning, even though that’s my natural default setting. I think this was what the challenge was about all along. A chance to recognise all the good things that come my way. A chance to say thank you. In my case to God, the one I believe sends blessings around us, if only we can train our eyes to spot them. A chance to break out of the cycle of endless moans.
The challenge was only for a month, but I’m going to carry on doing it. It makes me feel better about my life. It helps me see that whilst there are challenges, there are many good things. And it’s always good to balance the ‘help’ prayers that we often call out, with ‘thank you’ prayers that come from grateful hearts. Maybe you’ll try it. After all, you might have thought of three things already. Just three things. Not many is it. But find them, and you’ll feel blessed.