I had a wonderful conversation this morning with my kids, as I drove them to school. It started with a question asked about why some primary school kids looked happier than others, when it came to going to school, as we observed some skipping as they headed to school whilst others dragged their feet. (Granted that it is a Monday.) What made the happy kids so happy?
Without knowing all their circumstances, we concluded that it was because they'd be with their friends and they'd have things to keep them occupied throughout their day, as opposed to staying at home, having no one else to play with and "nothing" to do. (I'm ignoring the fact that there's always lots to do, even for a kid, with the most basic toys and a little imagination.)
My kids agreed with me. It was exciting back in primary school. Easier work. Less pressure. And by this stage in the conversation, I was just chatting with my older two high school kids, as I'd already dropped off my youngest.
As the conversation moved on, we talked about all the assignments, different classroom setups with different teachers, and then it slowly moved onto the attitude of some of the teachers towards how they taught the curriculm, how they each dealt with "difficult" students (i.e. the ones that distracted others), and how some just seemed perpetually grumpy with their job and didn't seem to like interacting with students.
And then the conversation moved on, to older people - the ones that had retired and had plenty of time of their hands and yet were still grumpy. We all know the type: They're in a constant state of anger and disappointment... no one and nothing seems to meet their expectations... and they always seem to want to complain about everything. And so it was asked, why?
Why be grumpy when you have no real constraints on your time? You're retired, you don't have to work, you can sleep in as late as you want, and go where you want. You have a house to live in, usually quite a nice one by that stage in your life, with all your trinkets and photos around you. You have complete control of your bowel movements (yes, they went there) and you don't have to wear a nappy. What's there to be sad about?
I think this is where the true meaning of gratitude comes in. It's about not taking ANYTHING that you have for granted. Sure, you might "want" more, but stop and look at what you have RIGHT NOW. Look at where you are now and where you've been or what you've accomplished. Don't compare it to anyone else, because we're all on a different journey and we've all made different choices and had different circumstances impact our lives. Just stop and look where you are, and be grateful for all you have.
It's so easy to forget, in a world of surplus avenues, all the wonderful things that we already have. Simple good health is an amazing thing to be grateful for. Having a roof over your head and enough food on the table is amazing.
And so it's just sad to see so many people with all these things, still unhappy.
I guess if that's something that you do, it's time to ask what you're unhappy about WITHIN YOURSELF. Yes, inside. Not outside you. If you're having trouble feeling grateful for everything that you have and just for being alive and being able to enjoy and live life, what is it about you, that you don't like?
Because it doesn't cost anything to smile... and it's priceless to everyone who encounters it.