Practising Thankfulness

“When you rise in the morning, give thanks for the light, for your life, for your strength. Give thanks for your food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason to give thanks, the fault lies in yourself.”

Tecumseh


Two weeks ago I set a young guy I was working with a challenge. The challenge was simple. Every day for two weeks he had to write down one thing he was thankful for that day. I made up a basic little table on word and left it with him. Truth be told I forgot all about it. And assumed he would have too.


But he didn't. Yesterday he showed me his completed challenge. There weren't 14 things. In total I counted 97. Every box was filled to overflowing with more on the back and a separate sheet for good measure. I was genuinely amazed.


There was nothing revolutionary mentioned. Food, water, sight, smell, coffee etc. Each thing he was thankful for is something I have. And you have as well. Y'know all those 'simple' things that day in day out we take for granted. And we probably always will until they're removed from us.


I felt genuinely convicted by him for my own lack of thankfulness in life. The task that was supposed to 'help' him actually pricked me.


This blog is all about thankfulness. Pandemic or no pandemic. There are reasons to say thank - you.


Human Contact is a blessing.


I live alone. Some of you may be the same. 97% of the time I love it. I eat when I want. I play music as loudly as I want and I can prioritise the things that matter most to me. But about 3 % of the time you do just crave human interaction. Coming into work and seeing people or interacting with a shop worker becomes (though it always was) a blessing.


We take human contact for granted. We are too quick to highlight the flaws in people and resent interacting with them.


Yet allowing ourselves to be open to conversation can be an enriching experience. It’s become a kind of routine for me to dander down to the end of the pier each evening around sunset. I like it there. It’s still and it’s beautiful. Yet one evening earlier in the week there was an elderly gentleman doing exactly the same thing. He told me he’d been doing it for years.


We had the most wonderful conversation about his wife, (whom he’d lost ten years ago) some of my experiences and how we were both somewhat ‘enjoying’ life as it is now. It was wonderful. I came away feeling blessed by the simple power of human contact.


When institutions are stripped away it is the people that remain. I am thankful for people.

We took (take) so much for granted.


Yesterday morning I got a true insight into the crippling effects of COVID – 19 on the lives of everyday people. I was standing in the queue for Eurospar to complete my essential shop. Behind me were two ladies discussing the paralysis of the pandemic on their beauty routines. Below is their conversation – I haven’t even exaggerated :)

Lady one let’s call her Cindy says to Lady two (Trish)

“This hair is standing on me… it’s really depressing me.”

“Tell me about Cind” responds Trish “Haven’t had my brows done in months now and I’m growing a beard but I’m afraid to touch it myself.”

“Aw babe, you’d hardly notice it.”

“Thanks hun, it’s just getting to me y’know”

“Yeah this virus needs to just f*c* itself.”

I mean as serious as people losing their livelihoods, their health and in some instances their lives Cindy and Trish’s problems are right up there. I know I definitely took getting my brows done for granted. But never again dammit! Never again.


Joking aside though let’s be honest. Every single one of us in the past six weeks has had a “flip I took that for granted” conversation with ourselves. It may have been a person, a place or activity that you took for granted. But let’s hope this has been a wakeup call for all of us to practise thankfulness daily.

The list of things we ‘need’ is much smaller than we all thought.


With that practising thankfulness in mind, I’d like to briefly consider “need.”


Each of our lives are made up of systems, people, places and things. There are things that each of us believe we need to survive, thrive and be happy. It may be a job, relationship, a faith, a gym routine, going out on a Saturday night or Dairy Milk chocolate.


We fear these things being eroded because we deem them essential for our happiness. We cling to them like a life raft because we think we will crumble without them. Yet you won’t crumble. Because inside yourself you already have all you need to survive. Combine that with water and food and what more could you need?

Exercise is medicinal.


You don’t need me to tell you exercise is good for you. It’s good for your cardiovascular and respiratory systems, for your joints, your muscles and or your bones too. Oh and for that complex thing sitting inside your head. It’s good for that too.


There is wealth of research backing up the assertion that exercise increases serotonin function in the human brain. Serotonin is a chemical produced by nerve cells and is considered a natural mood stabilizer. So when your personal trainer tells you that exercise is a good antidepressant he’s kind of telling the truth – even if you do want to punch him in the face because he’s asked for 5 more burpees.


COVID -19 has closed gyms, cancelled all sporting events and seemingly made it harder than ever to exercise.

Yet the only thing needed for exercise is the body. Get that thing moving. You don’t need to run 20 miles. Take a walk around the garden. Dance, bounce, lift, twist. Make a TikTok. The more we move, the easier movement become.



I’ve been able to fall back in love with cycling again during COVID – 19. Yes the sunburn, chaffing and butt pain take some getting used to but flying downhill with the wind at your back makes it all worthwhile.


We ought to be more thankful for our ability to move.


Di**s will probably still be di**s.


Unfortunately not everyone will get the thank - you memo Because you see some rules don’t apply to everyone. If you were someone who gave retail staff grief for no good reason before COVID you probably still will.


Many people have THEIR nose out of joint because THEIR plans have been changed and THEIR lives have supposedly been interrupted. Such people see themselves as perfectly entitled to give workers grief, complain about “poor old them” and just generally be a d**k.


To all those who are still working – Thank You. Whether you are NHS or private healthcare, retail, education or something entirely different. Thank You. Di**s will probably always be di**s but you are doing brilliant work to hold the country together. Thank – You!

Human beings are incredibly adaptable.


Imagine someone had come to you last year and said. “Ok Nigel (yes you are now Nigel J) I’ve got a bit of news for you. For the next minimum seven weeks there are going to be a few changes. You can’t go to church every Sunday and midweek like you have done all your life, even if you do sleep through the service. Your gym that you spend five evenings a week in is closed big lad. No more McDonalds, Starbucks coffee dates and you’ll have to queue to get into Tesco on Saturday mornings.


Forget about your girlfriend Megan – you won’t be seeing her let alone kissing her for the foreseeable. You can’t go into work because that will be closing. You have to stay at home. Every single day. On your own. Good luck Nige… You got this.


When lockdown measures were first mentioned and subsequently implemented it felt like a major intrusion. It felt claustrophobic and invasive. “There’s no way I can do this” - most of us probably thought. This will do my nut in. I’ll go mad.


Yet here we are. Frustrated? Possibly. Adapting? So it would seem. Social distancing is becoming our normal. (for now) We’re getting creative with how we stay in touch with family and friends. Maybe you’ve taken into TikTok, you’re learning the trombone or maybe you’re just getting used to staying in your pjs until 2pm. Whatever you’re doing – you’re coping, right? You’re getting by. You’ve adjusted. All of us are capable of modification and adaptation. Of surviving when things change. That’s the point.

Nature speaks


Nature always speaks. It always will speak. Yet it’s quite rare that we actually hear it. Usually our lives are made up of so much stuff that the voice of nature can be a difficult one to discern. The sound of deadlines, television, screaming children and social media are usually the main things filling our ears right? Stopping to listen to nature is a bit ‘out there’. It’s for hippie, weed smoking tree huggers’ right?


Yet the world during lockdown is quieter than it has ever been in our lifetime. Industry has slowed down and public places lay empty. There are fewer vehicles on the road dominating the soundscape when we open our windows. Nature however is continuing to do its thing. The rivers are flowing as they always did. The wind is blowing, the sun is shining (a lot for Ireland) and the birds are singing.


There is unparalleled beauty in nature. It hasn’t gone anywhere. It isn’t confined by lockdown. Let’s tune into nature and let her speak. It doesn’t make you a hippie, it makes you present.




"In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous." (Aristotle)



As we continue to walk through this challenging season may we continue also to support one another, practice thankfulness and challenge that inner d**k in all of us. These are strange times. But they are our times. Let’s make the most of it.

Thank you

Darren

I’m incredibly blessed because I’m able to write about COVID – 19 with a spirit of thankfulness. Unfortunately many people across this country and the world aren’t in the same position. I want to extend my deepest sympathies and thoughts to all those families who have been affected by COVID – 19. I am sorry for your loss and I wish you peace at this testing time.

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Darren Shields

Healing through Honesty

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