Grateful Journal

In Columns, Just My Bellybutton, Opinion by Nathasha Alvarez

Most of the time, people are only thankful during Thanksgiving. Most of the time, we are busy being busy. We all have the exact 24 hours in a day. How we divide those 24 hours makes an enormous difference in our lives. As a school teacher, I try to instill gratitude into my students’ minds. We are raising a generation of people who want more and more but are giving less and less. There is this attitude that our lives are the worst and no one else understands us.

It becomes a competition to see who has the biggest pity party. Instead, we should take a minimum of ten minutes a day to either write down or record the people, moments, and things that we are grateful for.

As disabled people, we might feel compelled to scream at the top of our lungs, “If you were me, you would not be grateful!”. That is the worst statement to scream aloud. We have much to be grateful. It is our responsibility to remember the positive aspects of our lives.

We have a choice. We can either make a list of all the negative aspects and events in our lives or we can concentrate on the positive. Without getting into scientific data, it is extremely taxing on our mental and physical health if we use our valuable time to list the things we can not do, see, hear or feel. However, there is an energy that permeates our bodies when we concentrate on the many small miracles in our lives.

As a person who has had over fifty fractures, I can tell you that there have been more times than not when I could have thrown in the towel and called it a life! I have had two two near death experiences. Once during an operation the doctors had to use CPR as the last measure to revive me. The other time, I had a respiratory failure because of an pneumonia that I didn’t know I had. But why should I let circumstances that I can not control determine my attitude?

Social prejudice would be another cloak that I could use to hide from the world and scream about its injustice to the disabled population but why give them that sense of satisfaction? Bitterness does not enter my life. I prefer to use success as my sweetest revenge. When I was in high school, a teacher whom I admired told me that I would never be able to get into those expensive ivy league schools. Back then, even the University of Miami was considered a prestigous unvitersity. I could have listened to his doomsday attitude and attended a local community college. I am grateful that I didn’t. I was accepted to many fine standing universities and eventually attended the University Of Miami. My teacher who meant no harm with his paternal advice told me that getting accepted was one hurdle but financing it would be the greater hurdle. There was no sweeter look on my face when I returned to visit him with a 100% scholarship. I will be eternally grateful to him for motivating me to reach for higher ground.

When school after school denied me the opportunity to teach because they were worried that I would not be a fit teacher I maintained my faith in my skills and ability. Thankfully, a former teacher, Harrabey Friedman, took a risk and hired me as a permanent substitute teacher whenever possible. I did my best to make him proud and gain the respect and confidence of the administration. It wasn’t easy and the battle was long. To this day, I am still confronted with ignorant parents who think that my teaching is less superior because I sit in a wheelchair.

The more strikes against me the sweeter the victory. Perhaps I am an overachiever who wants to do the best. Some say I do it to prove others wrong. I do it because there is only one life and I choose to have very few regrets in life. One source of my energy is my gratitude journal. I try my best to write something every day but on those days that I do forget, I take the time to give thanks to God.

It might seem a bit awkward at first. Later on, it will be easier. Close your eyes and envision some of the things that bring a smile to your face. Puppies and kittens make me smile. Air conditioners make me smile. What makes you smile? Does it feel silly? If so, dig deeper.

The fact that you are reading this should make you feel grateful to be able to read this. If someone is reading it to you than be grateful you have someone there to read it to you. The fact that you are not six feet under or in an urn should make you feel very grateful. See? When you put things into perspective there is too much in the world to be grateful about.

Don’t make this Thanksgiving the only time to have grateful thoughts. Make it a habit to be grateful every day. As long as the sun still shines and the stars twinkle at night, there is always something to put in your grateful journal.

In fact, Audacity Magazine would like to hear from you. Send us your thoughts on gratitude to . We will post them in the next issue and start an open Gratitude Section in the magazine.