Recently, two of my students, who happen to be biological sisters, taught me an important lesson about perspective and gratitude. I am going to refer to them as “A,” a second-grader, and “E,” a fourth-grader. They are both new students to our school and previously attended an inner-city school that lacks many things, but most importantly, quality instruction and safety.
As I began working with them, I sensed “E” was extremely paranoid of lockdowns. She asked me about them every day. I finally asked if she had lockdown drills at her previous school, or if they happened to be real, meaning an intruder was in the building. To my dismay, she said they were not drills, but they happened because there was an intruder.
“E” is an intelligent girl, but because of a lack of instruction, she is reading three grade levels below her current grade level. Yet, she has a positive attitude and is very eager to learn. She soaks up everything we do, never gives up, and is rapidly progressing.
“A,” her second-grade sister, also has such an optimistic attitude. Every day, as we walk down the stairs to go to the next building, we see the scene depicted in the photo that’s pictured at the top of this article. Without fail, each day during our first week, “A” would gasp and exclaim, “It is beautiful! I even see a river!” I chuckled to myself at the thought of a river in the desert. She was referring to the drain that looks like a little path. “A” found beauty in this scene and was grateful to be at our school, which is positioned in a serene setting next to a farm and in front of a beautiful mountain as the backdrop.
Honestly, when I first saw the scenery outside my door, I did not respond with the same perspective as “A”. Looking at this view through her lens is quite a contrast from the inner-city school she used to attend. Her sister, “E”, is grateful to be in our school to have a chance to learn to read. “A” is always smiling and finds beauty in the simplest things, and none of these things cost money.
These two young ladies have a grateful attitude. Currently, there is a lot of research about the connection between gratitude and overall mental health. Gratitude journals have become increasingly popular, and psychologists are claiming that keeping one has many benefits, such as positive emotions, feeling connected, and even better sleep.
However, the concept of gratitude is not new in the scriptures. There are many scriptures that implore us to give thanks. In particular, many of the psalms begin with a salutation: “O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.” (Psalms 107:7; Psalms 118:1; Psalms 118:29). 1 Chronicles 16:34 contains the same scripture. These scriptures declare why we should give thanks. Also, 1 Chronicles 23:30 states, “And to stand every morning to thank and praise the Lord, and likewise at even;” which directs us when to pray.
When I pray, I have focused on being intentional about shifting my prayer to begin with a praise, confessing my faults, being thankful, and saving my supplication or request for the end. Just as I have always taught my children to never begin their requests with demands such as “I want, I need, Give me…,” I am sure the Lord is more pleased when we are grateful and give Him thanks before our supplication.
Gratitude journals contain basic premises, such as stating what we are grateful for, what we look forward to, and perhaps something we can do for others. If journaling is not our thing, then we can simply express our gratitude to the Lord in other ways.
Furthermore, I love and embrace the Thanksgiving holiday. I especially enjoy the decorations that merely say “Thankful.” It is a simple phrase that means so much and can turn the perspective of a desert scene into something beautiful and peaceful as perceived by “A”.
In reality, it is not complex to give thanks, find the good, and reap the benefits of the Lord’s promise of His mercy, which lasts forever even in the desert stages of our lives.
This article has undergone ministry review and approval.