The gift of perspective is one that my mom helped instill in me early on. It is one of the most precious gifts that I can imagine. I haven’t always appreciated it (in fact, there have been moments recently that I have mostly hated it). This gift of perspective has made me dream to do the impossible, face trials head on, and believe that there is a silver lining-always.
As a kid, when I had an altercation or frustration with a friend (or enemy), my mom would point out what a good thing it was that the person was in my life. “It’s good for you! You are learning and practicing patience. Now you know how to deal with hard people.” At the time, all I wanted was for her to step in on my behalf and give that friend (or their parents) a piece of her mind. I wanted her to empathize with me and get angry with me. I thought that these kinds of gestures would demonstrate that she was on my side. Later in life, I’m seeing (even in those times of frustration) what a blessing the perspective she offered is. I do know how to deal with frustration. I know what patience feels like (even when I don’t like it). I rarely fall into the victim mentality and instead accept the challenge.
One of my many chores growing up was doing the dishes. I LOATHED doing the dishes. With a passion. When we moved into a new house my 5th grade year, one of the first things my mom pointed out in the kitchen was, “look at this view! You will have such a great view to enjoy while you are doing the dishes!” At the time I’m sure I rolled my eyes and mumbled something about enjoying the view without doing the dishes. But as an adult, I love cleaning…really! It helps me remember to be thankful for everything. As I dust, I am reminded of great memories, family, and love. As I vacuum, I’m reminded of how good a freshly clean house feels. As I fold laundry, I imagine new combinations of clothes that I can put together and have a moment to appreciate the incredible craftsmanship of the person who took the time to stitch my shirt together.
Even in disastrous situations, my mom shared the gift of perspective. One year, my family took a trip to France. We rode the Chunnel over from England, excited to experience Paris. It was late and stifling hot when we arrived (probably in the neighborhood of 180 degrees…there might be some hyperbole there). My little brother was whining about being hungry (we hadn’t eaten in hours) and we had to take buses and the metro all the way across France to get to our hotel. We were about as touristy as we could get. Millions of bags stuffed with us into teeny spaces with hairy arm pits as far as the eye could see. It was not ideal. We were lost. Could not find the hotel and it had now gotten dark. We were still tired, hot, and hungry in a place we didn’t know. We could sense my dad’s desperation as we wandered the streets of Paris.
Suddenly he barked at us to stay put while he figured out where we were. There, in the middle of Paris, not knowing if we would ever get food or shelter again, my mom started giggling. The kind of giggling where you start to get worried about the sanity of the person doing the giggling. My brother and I looked at her like she had lost her whole mind. “Isn’t it fun?! It’s like we are on a great adventure!” My mom was famous for the perspective of, “it’s an adventure!” (Which is a good thing because we tend to be rather Griswold on our travels and had had many “adventures”). Even now when I relay a disaster event to my mom she will say, “just think of the great story you’ll have to tell now!”
Perspective. It changes everything.
In our laundry room was a bulletin board. On it was the quote by Charles Swindoll that said: “The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude to me is more important than facts…we cannot change our past…we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10 percent what happens to me and 90 percent how I react to it. And so it is with you…we are in charge of our attitudes.”
My mom gave us this gift of perspective. The perspective of thankfulness, gratitude, and adventure. I haven’t always appreciated it, but it is a valuable, important gift.
Jesus seemed to have a similar perspective when he listed what we know as the Beattitudes. We find this unfold in Matthew 5:3-10:
Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Jesus seems to offer a different perspective, a different take on thankfulness. When I look at this list, at first glance I think the blessed don’t look all that “blessed”; they look more like real life and that doesn’t always feel “blessed” the way our culture defines it. I’m not sure that Jesus had the American dream in mind when he talked about blessing.
It seems like the American culture has been specially-conditioned to overlook blessing. We tend to focus on what has been frustrating (sometimes we even call them first world problems) instead of adjusting our perspective.
What would it look like to live a life of gratitude and thanksgiving, one that seeks out the beauty and good lessons in everything? What life will we make and encourage others to make? Whatever we look for, we will find. What can looking for gratitude and helping our kids seek out gratitude do for us?
I’m incredibly thankful for the gift of perspective, I may not always appreciate it in the moment (come on Mom, be outraged with me!), but perspective has made me a thankful person. It has caused me to look for goodness in things like cleaning, and being lost, and selling a house that is one disaster after another.
During this block we are working intentionally with your children on developing an attitude of gratitude. We are working to look at things from new perspectives and foster thankfulness. We are helping your kids strive for plasticity and a williness to see things differently and know that a different perspective is possible.
I want to invite you to join us as we enter this season of gratitude. Help us encourage this adjustment in perspective with your kids. Together, let’s build a culture of thankfulness.