By Allison Fawley
“Gratitude turns what you have into enough.”
This is the quote written on a prominent place in my family’s home. It is a phrase I have consciously tried to live by, and one that has helped me much over the years when I have fallen into selfish thinking. Thinking gratefully has kept me many times from feeling envious of others and has given me a greater appreciation for all God has blessed me with.
Growing up, my family never had an excess in income. My dad worked full-time, and my mom worked full-time in a different sense: she was the caretaker and school teacher for myself and my younger siblings. I remember when it was just my sister and I, when our budget was so tight we had literally no extra money to spend. All we had went towards bills, groceries, and similar necessities.
My sister and I both loved to draw, but materials such as scrap paper, colored pencils, and paint were something we couldn’t afford very often, and so we used what we had sparingly. Pencils were used until they couldn’t be sharpened, both sides of paper were filled to the edges with drawings, and paint was sometimes watered down a bit to go further.
Throughout the challenges, my parents cultivated in me a grateful heart. My siblings and I were taught to be thankful for what we had, and not dwell on the material possessions of others. We had each other, and that was enough. It was this heart of gratitude that allowed there to rarely be a complaint over matters concerning our stuff. We weren’t perfect, however, and I certainly had my days of disappointment and jealousy. The biggest disappointment for me was always travel. My friends often went on yearly vacations, sometimes to exotic places I had only ever read about, but my dreams of adventure and world-travel were too big for our tight bank.
Despite the fact that my family could not spend much when it came to entertainment, or go on many vacations, I can say very heartily that my childhood was NOT boring. Being schooled at home allowed for much more time for imaginative play, and did we ever play! Our games were always of the creative, play-acting kind, and our imaginary worlds were as complicated as they were fun. We spent a lot of time together as a family, coming up with fun games or activities that were probably more fun than anything that could have been bought.
Because my family centered our focus on being grateful, we had fun in simple ways, and found joy in the little things. That has stuck with me to this day. My parents cultivated hearts of gratefulness in our family, and you have every ability to do the same. But first it starts with you- and you have to work at it. Gratitude takes effort. It’s not like happiness, that comes and goes as it pleases with no certainty or reliability. Gratitude is also conscious, and anything that takes conscious effort will be difficult at times!
Purposefully choosing to be grateful is one of the most difficult challenges we will face in this modern world, where our desires for “a new this” or “a better that” can be gratified almost instantly. However, it is also one of the most worthwhile endeavors. Starting today, I challenge you to build up habits of gratitude. When you begin feeling envious, or even simply negative in your thinking about what you do or do not have, remember the quote at the beginning: “Gratitude turns what you have into enough.” Sometimes, we all are missing something- we will never have the “enough” we think we need or deserve. But choosing to be grateful for what we do have is what will make all the difference.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and pleading with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” ~Philippians 4:6