In those first days in the hospital after breaking my neck my parents kept my spirits up by creating a list of my blessings and reading it to me every day. Some time after that on a day when I was feeling a little down I decided to pull out a piece of paper and write down 100 things I had to be grateful for.
I had no idea how difficult a task I had set before myself. The first 25 were easy. There were things like family and friends, a good home with good food. The second 25 took a little more energy and a little more thought. The third 25 made me really think. To complete my list the final 25 consisted of any little thing I could think of. I was thankful for ketchup, light bulbs, socks, etc. If I could see it it went down on my paper. Number 99 on that list was the fact that I could pick my nose.
There was a time in my life when I couldn’t pick my nose. When you have to ask someone to help you pick your nose you find out who your friends are. This is not something a lot of people want to talk about, but definitely something you’re grateful you can do when you need to.
I learned to be grateful for this small blessing from a great man who visited my home in my youth. We had been told a few months before that a man of some importance in my church named Robert Harbertson was going to come and stay with us for the weekend. My father went to pick him up at the airport and we all waited in our Sunday best for them to return.
We knew that he was important not only from his reputation, but from the fact that since the day we learned he was going to be in our home my mom began the etiquette lessons. All of a sudden we were eating our SpaghettiOs with three forks, a couple spoons and a cloth napkin.
Finally they arrived. As they got out of the car and walked up the steps to our front door every member of my family wondered what words of wisdom this great man would have to share with us. Robert Harbertson came in our home, looked at me, brandished his signature smile, and walked straight over to where I was sitting.
I couldn’t wait. I wondered what spiritual nugget or life lesson he would have to impart to me. He stood in front of me, looked me in the eye and said, “Jason, I want to see you pick your nose.”
Of all of the wisdom that I thought that he might impart, of all of the words that I would have guessed he might have used, asking me to pick my nose never entered my mind. But, my parents had taught me to respect my elders and to do as they asked. So I attempted to pick my nose.
I will tell you—there is only one thing more embarrassing than picking your nose in front of someone you have a high regard for, and it is being unable to pick your nose in front of someone you have a high regard for.
He knew about my recent spinal cord injury and that at the time picking my nose would be a struggle for my weakened arms. He looked at me, smiled again and told me that the next time he saw me he wanted me to be able to pick my nose.
Not wanting to disappoint him I spent the following weeks and months working to pick my nose. This is something you do alone. This is not a tag team event, not something you want to get lot of people involved in. But nearly every day I worked to pick my nose. I would sit in my room by myself working to get my hand to my face to accomplish this goal. I wanted to make sure the next time he saw me that I had done what he asked.
Almost six months later, in Salt Lake City, I saw Robert Harbertson again. The minute he saw me, he walked over to me, looked me in the eye, smiled that same smile, and said, “Jason, I want to see it.” I will tell you this; never before, and never again has a nose been picked with the vigor and excitement that was that day. I mean I really picked my nose. I wanted to make sure that there was no question that I had completed my assignment as asked.
He laughed, and as he did I realized that he didn’t really care whether I could pick my nose, but he did care that I was working to improve the strength in my arms. Even still, every time I think of this experience with my friend Robert Harbertson I think about how grateful I am to pick my nose. I think about all the other “little things” that are a of my everyday life that I so easily forget to count as blessings.
Counting our blessings brings with it an amazing power. Gratitude for one blessing allows you to be grateful for others. Once I learned to be grateful that I could pick my nose my eyes were opened. and I was grateful that I could wash my face, brush my teeth, and feed myself.
Bringing this kind of gratitude into your life will chase away depression. For, there’s not enough room in the human heart for depression and gratitude at the same time. They are oil and water. They cannot exist in the same place at the same time. In fact, the one repels the other.
The wonderful thing about Thanksgiving is that it gives us each and opportunity to count our blessings–to chase the Depression from our lives. During this Thanksgiving I issue a each of you a challenge. Pull out a piece of paper (Kolette has a great one ready to download), number it as far as you like (at least to 10) and fill it with things you have to be grateful for. Then, take the time to share one of those things as a comment on this blog.
If we really get behind this idea, we will marvel at the things we find on our own lists, and have the ability to grow those lists as we see the comments others leave. If you read this post during this season, just take one moment and make note here of something you’re grateful for. It doesn’t have to be long and drawn out. It can be simply one word. But, if we will all do it then we will all be better for it. I’ll leave the first one, the fact that I can pick my nose.
The more comments that are left, the more thankful we will all be. If you don’t usually comment, do so–just this time. Encourage your spouse to leave a comment, ask your children to do so as well. Forward the post to a friend and invite them to put down what they are grateful for. Let’s grow this comment list as a Thanksgiving gift to ourselves.
For, I have learned that by writing down the things I am grateful for, I have a better chance of keeping the depression out, and the gratitude in.