The Lens of Gratitude

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As an adventure enthusiast who loves making new memories in new places with new people, I so often find myself infatuated with the prospect of living a “more exciting” life than the seemingly monotonous one I’m actually living. However, when reading a book recently, I stumbled upon a quote from a renowned French novelist that really struck me. Marcel Proust famously said, “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeing new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”

In a culture that romanticizes adventure and glorifies going after new thrills, our day-to-day living might not always seem glamorous. But, Proust argues that the key to appreciating our lives as they are instead of comparing them to the life we wish we had is simple: it’s gratitude. To truly appreciate something (about ourselves or the world around us) we simply need to open our eyes a little wider and see the world through a different lens!

In my own life, I sometimes struggle to see the gift in each day; instead, I juxtapose what I have with what I wish I had. I mean, it’s impossible to be grateful when trudging through another boring day in high school if I have friends vacationing in Hawaii, right? (WRONG!) The very beauty of each school day lies in the fact that it isn’t a tropical vacation; school is an opportunity to further our knowledge and foster our friendships. Of course, I don’t mean to argue that school is always better than a Hawaiian vacation! But, being grateful for the here and now completely transforms the way we think of it!

As William Ward once said, “Gratitude can… turn routine jobs into joy, and turn ordinary opportunities into blessing.” Even the most repetitive and annoying of tasks can prove beautiful if viewed with an attitude of appreciation. Whenever I find myself falling into this trap of ungraciousness, I try to re-center myself in the reality that there are so many people in the world who cannot even imagine having the privilege to do so many of the things I grouse about. Whether it’s waking up “too early” to go to school, or having to do the dishes each night after dinner, we have the choice to see the “chore” or the gift. Being able to wake up in a warm house and a comfortable bed in order to advance my education in a safe, clean, and engaging school sounds pretty amazing when I think of it like that. Having food to eat each night (and the means to clean the dishes in which the food was made) is also a blessing. So, why don’t we see more moments through that lens of appreciation? Because only we can decide how to view each situation, and choosing to see with gracious eyes truly does transform what it is we’re looking at.  

To end, I want to leave you with a popular quote that is used to discuss gratitude. It goes, “We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorns have roses.” Of course, nothing in life is all sunshine, but choosing to focus on the good of the situation, instead of the bad, allows us to experience infinitely more joy and peace, and frees us from the burden of comparing our life with someone else’s! Seeing with eyes of gratitude encourages us to focus on the good and be grateful for it; to see each thing God gives us as a gift, and to be glad for His generosity.