The Gratitude Antidote

The Gratitude Antidote

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Say Goodbye to Stress


The Gratitude

Christmas. The most glorious time of the year. But Christmas this past year was anything but glorious for me. I had just learned that my sister’s ovarian cancer had returned — for the third time. As if that weren’t enough, my married son, Rob, called and told my husband Larry and me that his wife had deserted him and their two young sons. There was, he said between sobs, no chance that she would change her mind.

One week before Christmas Larry and I were on a red-eye flight to Detroit to help Rob.

I knew I was in danger of sinking into depression. I suffer from chemical depression, which can be triggered by stress. Not surprisingly, my stress level was at an all-time high.

On the plane, I said a silent prayer, asking the Lord for His guidance. “I don’t know if I can make it through this,” I said. Though the words were uttered only in my heart, I knew the Lord heard my plea.

The words appeared in my mind, as clear as though God had spoken to me aloud. “Be grateful.”

Be grateful? What did I have to be grateful about?

The voice came again, more sternly this time. “Be grateful.”

“How?” I asked.

“Be grateful and then share that gratitude with others.”

In that hazy state between wakefulness and sleep, I wondered if I had imagined the entire conversation. We arrived in Detroit, exhausted and sick at heart, but determined to support Rob, who was in a state of shock.

While I took care of our grandchildren, ages six and three, Larry helped Rob find a lawyer. It was a heartbreaking process. Still, we tried to put a good face on things for the children’s sake.

The boys were too young to comprehend everything, but they knew something was wrong. “Mommy doesn’t live here any more,” the older one told me. It took everything I had not to give way to tears.

In between caring for my grandsons and doing some much-needed housecleaning, I started writing a list of blessings. “Okay,” I told the Lord. “I’m doing my best to be grateful. How do I share it with others?”

“Start a blog.”

“A blog?” I have no technical skills and am fortunate to be able to send e-mail.

“Write about your gratitude. You can touch the lives of others.”

By now I had learned not to argue with the Voice.

I mulled over the Lord’s instructions. Could I do it? In the midst of one of the darkest times of my life, I decided that I would write every day for a year about a blessing.

After Rob found a lawyer and we had things on a better footing for him, we returned to our home in Colorado where we spent Christmas Day with our other children. The following day, Larry and I drove to Utah where I spent the next three weeks with my sister, staying with her while she went through the first session of chemotherapy.

I started my blog on New Year’s Day, while in Utah. Early each morning, before the rest of the household stirred, I posted a short message, writing about something for which I was grateful. My subjects focused on simple, everyday blessings. A sunny day during the long dark month of January. An eighteen-year-old car that still runs.

Nearly six months have passed since I started “The Gratitude Project.” The depression I dreaded failed to materialize. The stress remained, but I was able to deal with it, doing what was necessary for my sister in addition to taking care of the housework and helping to care for her three-year-old granddaughter who lives with her.

Stress is a part of our lives. Few, if any of us, can get through this life without experiencing some degree of stress and its attendant consequences. But I learned that it is manageable. With the Lord’s help, I found a way to find joy in the midst of darkness.

~ Jane McBride Choate ~

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