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Less attitude, more gratitude

Published July 07. 2012 09:01AM

It's 93 degrees and natatorium-humid, so I'm sitting in our library, one of the two air-conditioned rooms in our old farmhouse, taking a break from Saturday house cleaning.

I'm irritable and uncomfortable I don't handle heat well. Flipping on the television, I page through channels, pausing as a show about an international group of doctors volunteering to treat cases of leprosy in a remote village in the Congo catches my interest.

I'm quickly drawn into the story, watching as a woman whose hands have been numbed and fingers ravaged by the disease goes about her daily chores, which include hauling water, making bread and cooking meager meals in an old, dented pan over an open fire.

She works matter-of-factly, smiling often, grateful that the disease has spared her feet and face; that she is still able to feed and care for her family.

Suddenly, polishing furniture, vacuuming rugs and loading clothes into a washing machine seem like luxuries. I feel ashamed.

We are so very, very fortunate to be able to live in a country where even the poorest among us has enough to eat, shelter, medical care, clothing and education. It's hard to find a family without television, a cell phone, a car.

But instead of being grateful for our high standard of living, we whine about what we lack.

I'm reminded of how often I complain about only having a fan in the dining room, about my small kitchen, about lugging laundry downstairs to the cellar to the washer and dryer.

Thank you, God, for showing me how fortunate I am. I HAVE a fan. I HAVE a dining room. I HAVE a kitchen, one that is well-stocked. I HAVE a washer and dryer, and clean water, hot and cold, that flows at the touch of a handle.

It's so easy to take our standard of living for granted. It's so easy to forget that we have so much, and others so little.

Someone once advised people to have "less attitude, more gratitude."

We all need that reminder once in while. In fact, we all occasionally need a reminder to be mindful of not just gratitude for our abundance, but of what we need to elevate ourselves above the mundane routines of daily life.

It helps to take a moment to read the ceramic plaque on my desk at work. The plaque, a gift from a friend, lists "The ABC's of Life": Accept differences; Be kind; Count your blessings; Dream; Express thanks; Forgive; Give Freely; Harm no one; Imagine more; Jettison anger; Keep confidences; Love truly; Master something; Nurture hope; Open your mind; Pack lightly; Quell rumors; Reciprocate; Seek wisdom; Touch hearts; Understand; Value truth; Win graciously; Xeriscape; Yearn for peace; Zealously support a worthy cause.

The plaque reminds me to to keep perspective when life doesn't flow as smoothly as I would like.

House isn't as clean as I'd like? I have a house. Beloved is an Oscar Madison when it comes to neatness? I am loved. Grumpy about being on a diet? I have too much food at my fingertips. Car needs maintenance? I have a car. House isn't always at the most comfortable temperature? I have fans and two air-conditioned rooms. Lawn needs mowing? I have a lawn, and a mower.

Most importantly, my family is healthy and happy. I have the means to take good care of our pets. I have a great job.

I am grateful.

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