Thank you President Córdova.
You know, research shows that people remember only a small amount of a speech they hear... so... I can stand up here and say whatever I want, right? Chances are you won't remember it anyways.
But... I won't actually do that because I have something worth saying – even if you only remember one sentence that I say.
I'll begin with a quote from Ann Voskamp, the author of One Thousand Gifts... the book that originally started me on this whole journey of thankfulness in the first place. She says, “When we lay the soil of our hard lives open to the rain of grace and let joy penetrate our cracked and dry places, let joy soak into our broken skin and deep crevices, life grows.” “As long as thanks is possible, then joy is always possible.”
I learned the hard way that this indeed is a policy to live by - “As long as thanks is possible, then joy is always possible.”
I spent this past summer in Uganda. You can imagine my excitement to be in a country with these people that I loved so much. I had spent months in preparation – emails, packing, fund-raising... it was finally here!
And then what happens but a neck injury... on the third day. It landed me on the couch for the next two weeks. I was bitter, frustrated, angry even. I had not come to Uganda to lay lie around. I was there to help people, right? What good was I to anyone just immobilized there on the couch?!? In the middle of my sulking, my friend Courtney handed me the book I just mentioned, One Thousand Gifts. I begrudgingly read it, if only because I was tired of staring at that same picture hanging on the same wall that I had for the past two days. I mean, at least it was a change of scenery. The book challenges its reader to be thankful in every moment – even for the small things... morning shadows dancing across the ground, the look of curiosity in a child's eyes, or even the quirky squirrel with his prized acorn.
Mm. Was I magically changed by what I read? No, but the room that I had considered as my jail cell for those two weeks slowly became transformed. I began to see the brilliant colors of that picture hanging on that same wall, to hear the laughter of children I had previously ignored, and to feel the warmth of the sun as it turned to afternoon. Was I suddenly happy about being on the couch 24/7? No, but as I began to be thankful for the little things around me, my heart became more joyful. Those weeks spent on the couch set the stage for the rest of my trip in Uganda. When communication with the locals grew difficult, I was able to admire the beauty in the intricacies of the tribal language. On the dreary days, I appreciated the powerful driving African rain. I decided that this was indeed a policy to live by, for “as long as thanks is possible, then joy is always possible.”
As we all strive to become the next Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, the next Steve Jobs or even the next Secretary of Agriculture, we need to realize that we are not invincible. Things are going to come up that we don't expect – things that will rock our world. We cannot control the circumstances, but we CAN control our responses. Are we going to wallow in bitterness or are we going to seek the joy and beauty in the small things?
“I? I want to see beauty – in the ugly, in the suffering, in the daily, in all the days before I die, in the moments before I sleep.” May joy fill my thoughts and thankfulness fill my heart. And may each of us take the time to find the freedom and the worth behind savoring the small, the ordinary, and the daily.