It’s the time of year when we’re reminded to be grateful and count our blessings. It’s a time of year when I’m reminded there’s a difference.
“Counting your blessings” isn’t really being grateful. Yes, it’s bound to lead to some level of gratitude when you take a break, reflect and realize all the good things you have in your life. But you could do this – and some people probably do – without feeling especially grateful.
It’s more difficult to do the latter. Especially when there are things for which you’re thankful that you wouldn’t exactly count among your “blessings.” But, as I’ve written before, we should be thankful not just for the sunshine and rainbows in our lives, but for the difficult times as well. The challenges and trials of your life have helped you become who you are.
We should also be thankful for opportunities we get. Sometimes, they are hard to see them this way, but what we call challenges are often opportunities. Be thankful that they are in your life, along with the difficult people in it. They help you develop.
Here’s a story about that I’d like to share. Maybe you’ve seen it before:
One day a farmer’s donkey fell down into a well. The animal cried piteously for hours as the farmer tried to figure out what to do. Finally, he decided the animal was old, and the well needed to be covered up anyway; it just wasn’t worth it to retrieve the donkey.
He invited all his neighbors to come over and help him. They all grabbed a shovel and began to shovel dirt into the well. At first, the donkey realized what was happening and cried horribly. Then, to everyone’s amazement he quieted down.
A few shovel loads later, the farmer finally looked down the well. He was astonished at what he saw. With each shovel of dirt that hit his back, the donkey was doing something amazing. He would shake it off and take a step up.
As the farmer’s neighbors continued to shovel dirt on top of the animal, he would shake it off and take a step up. Pretty soon, everyone was amazed as the donkey stepped up over the edge of the well and happily trotted off!
MORAL: Life is going to shovel dirt on you, all kinds of dirt. The trick to getting out of the well is to shake it off and take a step up. Each of our troubles is a steppingstone. We can get out of the deepest wells just by not stopping, never giving up! Shake it off and take a step up.
Great story, right? “But,” you ask, “What’s it got to do with Thanksgiving and being grateful?”
When you read this story, you can appreciate the idea that every challenge is an opportunity. As the author writes in the “moral” section – “Each of our troubles is a steppingstone.” Every time some throws a shovel-ful of dirt on your back, it’s a chance for you to step up, to improve your situation.
In that regard, there’s a lot of gratitude that should be flowing from the donkey-in-the-well story.
The donkey should be grateful for each shovel of dirt.
The farmer should be grateful for the donkey showing him how to handle adversity.
The neighbors should be grateful that they were called in to help shovel the dirt; they would never have seen the lesson otherwise.
So yeah, be thankful for the family and friends you have, the roof over your head, the food you eat and the freedom you have. But also be grateful for the experiences you encounter that test you, that appear as obstacles but are really opportunities.
Be grateful there are wells to fall in. Be grateful there are people who slowly want to bury you. Be grateful when you get to see examples of others overcoming adversity.
Counting your blessings is easy. Being grateful for what’s made you who you are is more difficult. They’re both important.