American Beauty and the Power of Gratitude / by Justin Warren

This clip from American Beauty (one of my all time favorite films) always affects me because it reminds me of the powerful impact of gratitude. 

The dictionary describes gratitude as the quality of being thankful; a readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness. It's a word that gets tossed around a lot, but rarely do we stop and really consider its meanings and implications. When I'm unhappiest, it's usually because I'm just running through life like a over-caffeinated squirrel, jumping from tree to tree without really knowing why. 

When I walk my dog, Piper, I'm always amazed at how often he wants to stop and just smell the grass.  He enjoys taking in every detail and in those moments, nothing else matters to him.  I stop for a moment, get impatient, and pull him along. But you know what? Piper is a lot happier than I am most of the time. To him, every day is a new opportunity. Every stranger is a potential new best friend. And he holds no grudges. He's grateful for every moment he's in and is open for every moment about to come.  

For the past few months I've really tried to make a concerted effort to write down three things that I'm grateful for every single day. Because if you don't bring it to the front of your mind, it's easy to forget how fortunate most of us are. Most of us (especially me) take a lot of things for granted. If you're reading this you are likely breathing. You're likely in a free society where we have access to more information that we could ever consume in a lifetime. You are probably not in captivity or worried for your immediate safety. And if you are, I'm honored and you're totally brave for reading this far with your life on the line! 

So I'm reminding myself to smell the grass. To notice the beauty behind a floating plastic bag. And remember that there is no reason to be afraid. Ever. If you've read this far, I invite you to write three very specific things that you are thankful for. I'll go first. 

1. I'm thankful for a loving community of friends and complete strangers that are donating their hard earned cash to help me realize my dreams. 
2. I'm thankful for my wife and my family for always encouraging and loving me. 
3. I'm thankful for my loving dog that reminds me how to love.