As many of you know, my Dad had part of his right leg amputated last week. Can I just tell you: He’s doing GREAT. So is Mom. I’ve never seen two people who have been so hope-filled and positive in the midst of trial.
There was this moment — and I’m going to get a little misty-eyed telling you about it. But there was this moment, just a few hours after the amputation. All of us kids were there, gathered around Dad’s bed. And Mom was there. There were some nurses, stringing up an IV bag and pushing buttons on a monitor.
And Dad … he just looked around the room, at all of us. And he had this smile that you could see in his eyes as much as on his lips. It was a smile he felt really deep on the inside of himself. It was a smile that revealed an inner peace.
And then he looked around the room, and he thanked each one of us for being there. He talked about the blessings. He mentioned all that he was grateful for — family, togetherness, love, life, the prayers of friends and strangers, the chance to start again. He remembered what the doctor said: “Don’t think of this as losing a leg, think of this as getting a new leg and moving on.”
I know that “looking on the bright side” comes easier for some folks than others. I also know that my dad is a generally optimistic person, who tends to see the glass half full. But I also know that there are certain valleys where it can feel so dark, that finding the good can be really, really hard — even for an optimist.
Dad is showing us all what it looks like to see the patches of light, in the middle of darkness.
Every morning, I get a little text from Dad, who is in the nursing home, where he is learning how to walk with one leg before he gets a prosthetic leg.
And every morning, his messages are filled with hope and happiness and gratitude.
“The biscuits and gravy here are really good.”
“You’ll have to meet one of the nurses here. She has come to Jesus over the rough road.”
“Got a card from some of your friends. Aren’t folks wonderful?”
And this: “I am open to surprises. Two months ago we didn’t know about what these two months were going to be. God will surprise us…. Often you don’t know what the surprise is, until later.”
This is what I’m learning from Dad about gratitude.
1 – Gratitude is an art of intentionality.
G.K. Chesterton said that “thanks are the highest form of thought, … and “gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.” I have seen, through Dad, how intentional gratitude is a high form of thought. And I’ve seen how it has helped his emotional and physical healing.
2 – When you look for things to be grateful for, you start seeing them.
Researchers tell us that when you begin to scan for positivity in your life, your brain actually starts to train itself to see even more!
3 – It costs you nothing to be grateful for what you already have.
It’s right here. In the nursing home. The hospital. My own home. In the middle of the valley. It’s the friends who sit down in the middle of the mess. It’s two girls with ukeleles and harmonized voices. And more: The neighbors salsa, in glass jars. The smell of rain. Clean sheets. Park benches. A sturdy roof. A whistling tea kettle. Reruns of Seinfeld. A flock of geese, headed north. Dad, with a smile so deep you can still see it one week later.
I am grateful. So very. Thanks, Mom and Dad.
(And thank YOU for your prayers. I am so sorry I haven’t responded to all of your emails and comments. But I have read EVERY SINGLE ONE!)
Over on Instagram, there are a whole bunch of us paying attention to what we’re grateful for. If you want to join in, just tag your good stuff with #TheHappinessDare. Here’s some of what appeared on #TheHappinessDare stream last week — at a fashion show in London, a village in the Philippines, an amusement park in Seattle, and a wedding in New England. And over on Facebook, our Happiness Dare video from the lobby of Mayo Clinic has gotten more than 75,000 views in the past week! Maybe you are like us — tired of all the negativity in the world and ready to push back with Happiness.
Here are this week’s featured photos from around the world!
@brucebarone | @shellymiller120 | @karrilee_aggett
@jacque_watkins | @kayla_craig | @marinabromley
@deviduerrmeier | @pippyjbrooks | @lisaappelo