Entering the Thankful Zone

Entering the Thankful Zone

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Reader's Choice 20th Anniversary Edition

Entering the Thankful Zone

If you want to turn your life around, try thankfulness. It will change your life mightily.

~Gerald Good

One by one we wrote upon the 3x5 index cards and then taped them to the closet door across from my husband’s hospital bed. On the card at the top was written “God’s Love,” on another “Each New Morning.”

It was Thanksgiving Day 2011, and my husband and I were celebrating the holiday alone in his hospital room. He had been admitted a couple of weeks earlier, after his AML (acute myeloid leukemia) had roared out of remission. Our adult children, who lived with us, were spending the day with friends in our town an hour to the north.

Earlier that morning, as I prepared to leave home and head to the hospital, I found myself grumbling about the fact that we wouldn’t be together as a family; this would not be the kind of Thanksgiving we had hoped for. A specter of worry about my husband’s health hung over the day. But then, I had an idea!

I raced about our home gathering supplies and printing things out on the computer. As I did so, I found my attitude changing and a sense of anticipation and gratitude replacing my darker thoughts.

Later that morning, I walked into my husband’s room and pulled out a sign I had printed. I announced, “We are declaring this room the ‘Thankful Zone.’ ” I taped the sign to the outside of his door, where anyone coming into his room would see it. It read, “You are now entering the ‘Thankful Zone.’ Admittance is an Attitude of Gratitude.”

I handed my husband a pen and some of the 3x5 cards I had brought with me, and we proceeded to reflect on the things that we were most grateful for. The list grew as the day passed.

“Hope,” “Faith” and “Love” were placed at the top of our list. “Good friends” and “Dear family” also held places of honor.

My husband, who could not leave the medical unit he was on, wrote that he was grateful for “Sunshine,” for “Moonless nights, when you can see the stars” and for “The smell in the air after rain.”

He laughed, but wholeheartedly agreed when I added “anti-nausea drugs” and the name of the sedation drug that he was given before each of his many bone marrow biopsies.

Something happened as we added each new item. We were able to step back from the horror of cancer and see that even in the midst of great adversity there can also be great blessings. Among the many blessings were “Laughter,” “Music” and through it all “Each other.”

Our changed attitude affected everything around us. We even found ourselves thankful for the delicious hospital dinner of turkey and stuffing and the hands that had prepared it. We recognized the blessing of the amazing nurses and doctors who were caring for my husband.

At the day’s end, the closet door was overflowing with written reminders of the many things we were thankful for. No, we had not been able to spend a traditional Thanksgiving with family and friends, but we had experienced a day overflowing with giving thanks. Simple things such as “Warm showers” and “Dancing with the one you love” can make life an unexpectedly sweet journey.

~Jeannie Lancaster

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