I took a quick walk this evening over to the gas station to pick up a few things for my mother. Considering my recent sourness towards failing attempts to make my life go as I planned (shouldn't I know better by now?), I probably didn’t have a joyous holiday smile on my face. Regardless, I was my polite and friendly self greeting the attendant at the counter and left the station without letting my glum mood affect anyone else’s evening. But, oh, how the simplest things can erect happy feelings when you least expect it.
Upon leaving, the second attendant, a younger man who was servicing a car at the pump, decided to infect me with his outstanding positive mood. “Have a good night, eh?!” he recites to me in a very genuine, cheery, thick Canadian accent that is so indicative of my hometown region. He followed this with another simple and genuine statement that quite unexpectedly turned my week long morose around – “Life is so much easier when we smile.” This was simultaneous with a quick wink. My mother insists he was simply flirting, but however this attitude came to be, I am infinitely grateful.
Beyond the truth found in this man’s statement (whatever his hidden agenda may have been), his optimism for the simple do-good facial expression brought to mind a number of my long-forgotten ideas about how our attitudes affect our lives.
When I first arrived home from Ghana, I was obsessed with not letting my reverse culture shock tackle my gratitude for life. I remember having coffee with a mentor of sorts and conversing about gratitude. I was firm believer that my life was good and I was happy because I was so grateful for things around me. Being quick to play devil’s advocate, my experienced friend reminded me that I had a lot more to be grateful for than most people.
Years have passed since that conversation and my stringent mindset of life and gratitude has fluctuated constantly; most days since then I've been convinced my mentor was right in assuming my gratitude came from the wonderful gifts my life had handed to me. Now, I find myself realizing how spot on my 22 year old self actually was.
While dealing with the concerns and stresses that life is currently handing me is definitely unavoidable, recognizing the ability to be grateful for all the aspects life is offering me is much more important. Thanksgiving should not be the one sacred time of year we recite our appreciation; it should be every day. And not because we owe it to the world or God, but because we owe it to ourselves. Because being grateful means finding contentment in the life we have made for ourselves in the everyday bustle.
I am grateful for the opportunity of peace and family connections I've been given for the holidays. And I am grateful for the opportunities of travel, career and friends that the past has always afforded me.
And more than anything, I am grateful for the possibility of opportunities I have yet to discover.
And I’m grateful for a smile... and someone to remind me of them.
Life really is easier when we smile.