I don't remember too many intricate details about my mission, but I do remember one talk that my mission president's wife (Sister Nelson, pictured at the right) gave at one of the zone conferences. She spoke on thankfulness and gratitude, and several times in the course of the talk, she asked us to have an "Attitude of Gratitude" while we were out there, doing missionary work. Missionary work can be very discouraging at times (to say the least!), and one of her points was that if we would find a way to be grateful for the little things, we would have more joy in our lives, and enjoy our missions (and the rest of our lives) much more, not to mention being better missionaries.
I believed her then, and I did try to find more ways to feel and express gratitude for all that I had. But, I must admit that I didn't really take her counsel all the way to heart at that particular time.
However, about a year and a half ago, a friend of mine (she was actually my visiting teacher) gave me a small notebook, with the suggestion that I take a few minutes each day and write down one or two things for which I was grateful. I'd heard of doing this before, and considered doing something along that line, but had never done it. This time, I decided to go ahead and try it.
The results were miraculous. It only takes about 2-3 minutes each morning (I'm too tired at night), and I just write a sentence or two. Sometimes I write silly things like, "I'm grateful to have long, pretty fingernails", or "I'm grateful that the snow has finally melted". Other times I make more in-depth entries, describing people I met up with that day and how they made me feel, or realizations I had of how impossibly and unbelievably blessed I am with regard to my job, my family, my talents, my childhood, or whatever.It sounds like such a little thing, but actually taking the time to make these short entries has done wonders for my attitude, helping me to realize just how much I have. When I realize that, it's simple as pie (there we are again with that pie analogy--maybe someday I'll do a blog post on just how UN-simple making pie has been for me) for me to shift my focus from the things in my life that I don't like to the things that I really really do.
Perhaps I'm thinking about this more now because I've spent the last 3 months writing thank-you cards for our wedding gifts. I only write two notes per day, so I've yet to make a dent in the stack (which is why many of you haven't received your notes yet), but writing all these people has brought home to me again and again how fortunate Eric and I are. We are loved and cared for by literally hundreds of people. As I write the notes, I remember the people to whom I'm writing, and experiences I've had with them, and the things I love about them.
It's a great experience. Maybe once I'm finally caught up with all these thank-you's (like in 2009 or so), I'll see if I can't make it a habit to write a couple of thank you's per week.
Maybe . . .