In 2008 a young Australian woman, Hailey Bartholomew, found that she wasn’t enjoying life. She described herself as feeling lost and stuck on a treadmill. It was almost inexplicable. She was married to a man she loved and had beautiful children who held her heart. So why was she feeling so down about her life? Hailey sought the counsel of a nun, who advised her to spend time each day reflecting on something for which she was grateful. Hailey began a project called “365grateful”. Every day she took a photograph of something for which she was grateful.
It changed her life, for it allowed her to see things she had never noticed. Hailey had always thought of her husband as unromantic. One day she took a picture of him serving up dinner, the thing which she was grateful for that day. She noticed for the first time that the largest portion of pie was placed on her plate. She realised that the largest portion was always placed on her plate and that this was one small but profound way her husband showed his care for her. Hailey had found mothering a “boring job”, but as she took photos of her children holding out their hands to her, playing and exploring, she discovered how much joy and wonder there was in her world. Through the art of gratitude Hailey found herself lifted out of her rut and celebrating life.
Source: Details derived from the 365 grateful.com and a TED talk by Hailey
Roy Campanella was one of the first African Americans to play in the US Baseball major leagues. In a distinguished career he won the Brooklyn Dodgers Most Valued Player award many times, and in 1955 was in the team that won the World Series.
But in January 1958 his career was cut short after a car crash left him a quadriplegic. After he was injured he spent a lot of time in the Institute of Physical medicine and Rehabilitation in New York City. One day he stopped to read a gold plaque upon one of the walls, and for someone who had been blessed with such athletic gifts it resonated deeply within him:
“I asked God for strength, that I might achieve.
I was made weak, that I might learn to humbly obey…
I asked for health that I might do great things.
I was given infirmity that might do better things…
I asked for riches that I might be happy,
I was given poverty that I might be wise…
I asked for power, that I might have the praise of others.
I was given weakness that I might feel the need of God…
I asked for all things, that I might enjoy life.
I was given life that I might enjoy all things…
I got nothing I asked for, but everything I had hoped for.
Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered.
I am, among men, most richly blessed!
Source: Scott Higgins, using information from Baseball Library.com and Chicken Soup for the Soul.
Imagine this scene: a man of around 35 has been to a men’s movement weekend. While away he realises that he’s never told his father he loves him, so he decides when he gets home he’ll do it. He gets home, picks up the phone and calls home. Dad answers the phone.
“Hi Dad, it’s me.”
“Oh, um, hi son! I’ll go get your mother…”
“No don’t get mum. It’s you I want to talk to.”
There’s a pause then, “Why? Do you need money.”
“No, dad. It’s just I’ve been remembering a lot about you, Dad, and the things you did for me, working all those years to put me through college, supporting us. My life is going well now and it’s because of what you did you get me started. I just thought about it and realised I’d never really said ‘Thanks…’”
Silence on the other end of the phone. The son continues
“I want to tell you thanks, and that I love you.”
“Son, you been drinking?…”
Source: Reported in Stephen Biddulph, Manhood. Originally told by Robert Bly.
Paul Brand is a brilliant medical doctor who did pioneering work in the treatment of leprosy. He has received the Albert Lasker Award, been made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire by the Queen, served as the only Westerner on the Mahatma Ghandi foundation, and had medical procedures named after him.
Brand grew up in India, where his parents were missionaries. At the age of nine he was sent to boarding school in England. Five years later, while a 14 year old student there, he received a telegram informing him that his beloved father had died of blackwater fever. Brand cherished fond memories of his father, a man who had a great love for people and a great love for the natural world around him.
A short time after he received news of his father’s death Paul Brand received a letter from his father. It had been posted prior to his father’s death but took some time to reach Brand as it came by ship. It’s words impacted deeply upon the young son. Paul’s father described the hills around their home and then finished with these words: “God means us to delight in his world. It isn’t necessary to know botany or zoology or biology in order to enjoy the manifold life of nature. Just observe. And remember. And compare. And be always looking to God with thankfulness and worship for having placed you in such a delightful corner of the universe as the planet Earth.”
Source: Reported in Philip Yancey, Soul Survivor (Hodder & Stoughton, 2001).