I consider myself a pretty grateful person. I'm the type that walks outside in the morning on my way to work and looks up at the sky to admire its blue. I bow my head in grace over virtually every meal, no matter how small. And I tend to live in a constant state of awareness of my good fortune.
But, I am hardly the eternal optimist -- you know, those folks who rummage through a crappy situation and announce to the rest of us the existence of a sliver of a silver lining. I prefer to analyze the scene before I take a position on how one might or should feel about it. That doesn't mean I look for the negative or that I am a negative person. It means I try not to avoid the negative. It's a part of the story. Context is everything.
There are folks who are quick to tell the guy with one leg that he should be grateful because he didn't lose both of them. This is true...but it still sucks to only have one leg. Let's acknowledge that. Feel it. Taste it.
You don't have to ignore reality to be grateful. In fact, acting like it's all good when it's not can cause more harm than good. Life coach Iyanla Vanzant often says you have to "do the work." Which, if you've ever watched Fix My Life or seen any of her talks, that means being real. About your feelings, about the situation, about your part in it and everyone else's.
The day before yesterday was an important holiday in the U.S. -- Black Friday. My brother and I were enjoying the gorgeous weather out on the balcony of my sister's apartment while discussing the items we wanted to score at the mall.
"I gotta get some new shoes, man," he said, shaking his head. "These right here," he said, looking down at his red and white sneakers, "I wear these Jordans to work."
I smiled. "Do you hear yourself? Dude, you got 'work' Jordans. That's like saying, 'Oh these are my work diamonds.'" He looked at me for a moment, and then we both burst into laughter at the absurdity of first-world problems.
"You're right," he said. "That's crazy."
Though my brother had found new perspective on his shoes, it didn't change the fact that he didn't feel comfortable in them anymore. So when he donned new sneakers he bought at the mall later that day, he was like a different person. His smile was bright. His step had pep. I was glad for him.
Yes, one should be grateful for fully intact old, stinky Jordans. Yes, things could be a lot worse. But there's nothing wrong with wanting a new pair.