I just got back from the Windy City. I spent the past several days in Chicago with the folks from Loyola Press, learning about all they are doing to support people like me in parish faith formation. As always, I walk away energized and blessed by the efforts of this non-profit publishing house.
While I was there I had some time to continue reading from Dale Carnegie’s classic, How To Stop Worrying And Start Living. At the present time, you can pick up this gem for less than $10 on Amazon. If you don’t own it, please get a copy. I don’t think you’ll regret it.
Because I generally read several books at once, it’s taken me some time to move through this book. Last night in my hotel room, I got into a chapter on gratitude (chapter 14).
By coincidence, one of the many books we discussed at Loyola Press the day before was one of their new titles, The Prayer That Changes Everything, written by Jim Manney. This small and easy to read book introduces the reader to St. Ignatius’ Examen Prayer, which I’ve written on previously. This is a great book, and the Examen is a great way to pray.
What ties these two books together is their emphasis on gratitude, an idea that seems to be lost to most people today.
In Carnegie’s book, he tells story after story of people who have come to understand just how blessed they are through their encounters with those who are less fortunate. He also quotes centuries old wisdom, such as the entry in the diary of Marcus Aurelius, the Roman Emperor from 161-180 AD. He wrote,
I am going to meet people today who talk too much- people who are selfish, egotistical, ungrateful. But I won’t be surprised or disturbed, for I couldn’t imagine a world without such people. (pg. 110-111)
Through his stories, Carnegie challenges his reader to realize that even the least of us have much to be grateful for. Most of us get caught up in our own situations, seeing only the worst, failing to realize that the most difficult parts of our lives are a small component of our overall situation. Focusing on the good can quickly turn our attitudes around.
In Manney’s book, Part Two of the Examen prayer has us giving thanks to God for all that we have been given for that particular day. The fact that we were able to live to see another day is a great place to start. Yes, we’ll have some tough days, and without a doubt, sometimes it will be hard to see the good through all the negative. St. Ignatius reminded us that we can and should find God in all things, both the good and the bad.
Using the Examen prayer daily can cultivate a life of gratitude. When reading some of the stories in How To Stop Worrying And Start Living, we can also come to see how blessed each of us really is, despite the many difficulties we face each day.
I plan to write more about gratitude soon. For now, I’d like to encourage you to take five minutes and make a list of all the things you are grateful for. I hope you run out of space 🙂
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