There is a magic word that has helped me throughout my journey in Europe, and I thought I’d share it so that it may help you with whatever you may be facing.
My trip so far has gone pretty smoothly; there have been no major disasters that have cut the trip short, and nothing has prevented me from getting the things I need to live my daily life. So, for all these things, I say the magic word: thank you!
- (Okay, so it’s two words in English, but it’s gracias in Spanish, graciès in Catalan and merci in French – all one word 🙂 )
If we start at the beginning of my journey, my flights from Winnipeg to Barcelona went smoothly. Thank you! Now, if we look deeper, we realize someone at the airline had to schedule the flights’ dates and times. Thank you airline employee! That person also had to coordinate with the airports, both the departure and arrival, to make sure there were gates and runways available. Thank you to the airport employees! The pilot had to fly this complex machine. Thank you! Someone had to teach the pilot how the aircraft works so that he could use it properly. Big thank you! Someone invented the jumbo jet and two famous brothers before that invented the airplane. Thank you, guys!
All these people invested time and energy to allow me to get to my destination; I have all these people to be grateful for, and I’m still taking about day 1 of my trip.
I find that practicing this kind of gratitude has helped me snap out of some gloomy moods I’ve been in. If I can, I imagine all the people involved in producing the things I have around me, and say “thank you.” Because I currently don’t have a fixed schedule, I feel like I have all the time in the world to practice this expression of gratitude. I take more time now than I did with my previous nine-to-five lifestyle.
Let’s take another example. I had muesli for breakfast today; it had oats, quinoa, raisins, cranberries and corn flakes. One person grew the oats in a field; another grew the quinoa; another grew grapes that someome then dried to make raisins. A number of people carried these raw ingredients in crates and trucks to the muesli manufacturer. There, someone came up with the muesli recipe, another person combined the ingredients, put it in a box, put the box in a truck so that it got to the store where I bought the finished product.
All this came together so that I could have a breakfast that fueled my body to live another day. Thank you, everyone!
This way of thinking helps put things into perspective if something goes “wrong.” If you’ve taken the time to thank everyone, you’ll see that one small part of the chain that didn’t work as expected doesn’t ruin everything. Plus, if you look around you right now, you probably have a lot of other things that have gone right, and for which you can express gratitude.
I’m anticipating some thoughts you may be having: “I paid for this muesli and the flight. I gave them money I worked to earn, so of course things should work right.” I have a few thoughts about this:
- I actually also say “thank you” to the money I’m handing over to the cashier as I pay for my purchase. The fact that I actually have a 20€ bill in my hand right now is something to be grateful for. This is one of the reasons I prefer cash over electronic payments — it feels more tangible.
- I also make sure to thank the muesli farmers and producers when I get home, too. Sure, in a way, paying money is sort of like thanking someone for their work, but actually saying it makes you actually feel grateful. It’s the feeling of gratefulness that’s important. It’s the emotion of gratefulness that changes your perspective. That’s why “thank you” is called the magic word — it can lift your spirits when you need it.
- The idea that we “work hard to earn our money” bothers me about our current economy. It’s a concept that I’d like for us to get away from. I won’t talk about it here too much. You can read my page about giving tithes, where I talk about how I’d like our economy to change. I think the key thing to remember is that you have the money on-hand right now, and you are able to spend it.
Like I said, stopping to say “thank you” for what I have has been an integral part of my trip. Gratitude really helps change perspectives on my current situation. I encourage you to try it out now, and even to continue doing so tomorrow, and the next day. If you feel compelled to share your gratitude, you can write your thank-you note on the page I created just for that purpose. (There are many sites where people go to talk and complain about problems – my page is for discussing and celebrating the positive!) I’ve already started a list of things I’m grateful for; this may inspire you and your gratitude list.
→ Add to my gratitude list now!
I leave you with an image of a street in Barcelona, where the archway shows its name. May all of us find our pasaje de la paz, our the road to peace.
Edit note, October 11, 2015: I shortened the paragraph about giving tithes. I felt that my original text detracted from the positive message of expressing gratitude that I wanted to share.