Which Came First, His Life Filled with Love and Happiness or His Gratitude?
Dad's life of music began when he was a small boy singing with his eight brothers in their own orchestra. They were impressive, later appearing on Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts in 1954, where the applause meter determined that they'd won the grand prize. Dad sang Ol' Man River with his brothers backing him, and by the time they were finished, Arthur was in tears. (Every time I hear the recording, I end up in tears, too.)
As he got older, his love for music continued to grow and eventually transformed into a career that included touring with the Robert Shaw Chorale, teaching high school and middle school, directing both school and community choruses, sound engineering, developing music theory courses for colleges, and eventually volunteering at the Mesa Arts Center here in Arizona from its inception until he just couldn't do it anymore.
My father was a loving, caring, strong, responsible, capable, funny, humble, and all-around beautiful man. And to say I’m extremely fortunate to have had him in my life, not to mention as my dad, is a huge understatement.
And oh how he loved his students! I remember him telling me how fulfilling it was for him to take “the kids” who came to him not knowing how to sing – including some who’d have trouble holding a tune – and transform them into not only singers but children who’d come to cherish music for the rest of their lives.
Dad wasn’t only into the teaching, or even the music itself. It was about the people. He cared about his high school and middle school kids. He cared about his peers. He cared about each member of the community choruses. He cared about his co-volunteers, the staff, the patrons, and the entire success of the Arts Center.
He was so loved. Even cherished. He was friendly. He’d crack jokes. He’d make weird horrifying faces by curling his upper eyelids inside out, which would have the girls shrieking and turning their heads. Mine included - because he did the same at home. He was the real deal.
As his daughter, I was lucky enough to have been able to spend a fair amount of time with my dad throughout my life, especially since he and Mom moved here to Arizona from our hometown of Poughkeepsie, NY as soon as he retired. At the time, three of the five of us children were living here in the Phoenix area.
One of the things I’d hear Dad say most often is, “I’m so grateful.”
What a powerful statement.
Anything we start with the words “I am” is what we’re putting out there and giving energy. Basically, if we put it out there enough, we make it so.
I’m so grateful.
I’d hear him say it to practically everyone. He’d say it to us kids. He’d gather us for family hugs and say it some more. When my sister Linda, his oldest who lives in Oregon, and I, his youngest here in Arizona, would be visiting together at the house, Dad would take us in his arms and say, “My bookends!” And it was quite clear that what he was saying was, “I’m so grateful for my bookends!”
He said the words so often that he didn’t really even need to say them every time for us to know what he felt. Dad was love and gratitude personified.
- the youngest of eleven; the child at the end of the line who got the battered hand-me-downs,
- the sweet little boy who’d finally gotten something brand new of his own – a bicycle – only to have it immediately stolen from a storefront when he ran in to quickly grab a grocery item for his mother,
- the seventeen-year-old who served his country aboard both the USS Oakland and USS Hopewell, which led to his own battles with anxiety and inner ear issues throughout his life,
- the young man who didn’t graduate high school but later received his GED so he could go to college, earn multiple degrees, and make a good life for himself and his family.
My father’s baseline was gratitude.
This makes me think of the age-old question: Which came first, the chicken or the egg? (If you’re still wondering, you might be happy to know that scientists have finally concluded that it’s the egg.)
But what’s this have to do with my father?
Well, the way I see it, the chicken is to the egg as my father’s personality was to gratitude.
Let me explain.
Which came first, my dad’s life filled with happiness and loving relationships, or the fact that he was a grateful man?
Sure, he was grateful for all the love in his life. But I really think that his grateful nature is what opened him to receive, be present to, and perpetuate all the love around him – and even more gratitude.
Gratitude opens doors. It opens people’s hearts. It’s like a magnet that attracts more and more goodness into your life.
Not only that, it opens new pathways in the brain because being grateful – having thoughts of gratitude – transmits positive energy throughout our bodies. Therefore, our outcomes are more positive.
When we’re grateful, compassion and connection, both of which Dad had immense amounts, increase. We’re more resilient, optimistic, and enjoy greater health because new brain cells are generated and these new neural pathways are forming.
As Dr. Deepak Chopra tells us, “Gratitude is like a force of nature, and grace is a state that can benefit body and mind together.” He says that a thankful thought doesn’t just remain in the head, but that messenger molecules transmit every thought, feeling, and sensation to the body’s hundred trillion cells.
When we’re grateful, we’re connecting with more of the goodness we want in our lives. And what we focus on expands. What we regularly think becomes our reality. So, imagine what it would be like if everyone were to cultivate a daily practice of gratitude.
It can be as simple as writing down three things we're grateful for each morning before we start the day or each night before we turn out the light.
One night recently, as I was getting into bed, I remember being blessed with such a moment of presence and gratitude: I’m grateful for this warm bed, these cozy blankets, and comfy slippers at my side. I was acutely aware of how fortunate I really am. There are so many people who don’t have what most of us consider the very basics.
And you know what happened? The gratitude continued into the morning, into the very moment I woke up. I was still aware of how grateful I am for so many blessings in my life.
Gratitude is powerful. And it’s contagious.
We need only stop and notice all the bounty we have at any moment. This will transform stress, anxiety, sadness, anger, loneliness, fear, and the like. And the more often we do this, the faster things turn around, and the better we feel.
So, my friend, what do you say we contribute to the health and happiness of the whole by starting with ourselves? Let’s take a note or two from my father’s songbook. Rather, let’s take a quarter rest by stopping, taking a breath, and asking ourselves, What am I grateful for at this very moment?
Raising our vibration and living from a state of wholeness - living from the heart - is a daily practice. The more often we take the time to look within, as in giving ourselves the gifts of quiet introspection and moments of gratitude, the more easily the light within us comes forth to shine out for all in our path to experience. This light then must create a ripple effect that will touch the masses.
Thank you for checking in. I hope you have a beautiful day. I’m so grateful that you’re here.