I could probably spend days just listing all the things I’ve been taught by the women I’ve worked with over the years. But among the chief of these lessons has been to do with gratitude. I’m not talking about the patronizing, “there-but-for-the-grace-of-God-go-I” gratitude. Nope, I’m talking about gratitude that grows out of resilience: that is nothing less than an ability to keep events in perspective along with an understanding that crisis can be survived and surmounted; and that one of the tools for doing so is finding and appreciating life’s small gifts.
This process takes skill. I mean, anyone can be grateful for winning the lottery or surviving a car crash, but it takes a certain discipline to be grateful for a quiet moment spent with a friend, or for seeing a favorite rerun of 30 Rock. And it takes real determination to find gratitude in the midst of personal turmoil.
One of the first women I met when I started working at the Women’s Centre in 2004 was dealing with a horrendous personal situation in her life. She and I did some brainstorming together and I then gave her a couple of referrals. As she was turning to go, she gave me a big smile and said, “…but on the positive side, I was able to buy a bag of brand new socks at the thrift store this morning and they’re serving lasagna at the Light House this afternoon. Life doesn’t get much better than that!”
Her gratitude for these small happinesses, in no way diminished the crisis she was trying to navigate. But noticing and commenting on these gifts was a life affirming action – a shot across the bow of impending despair – her way of saying that she accepted the duality of life, its storms and its promises.