Sow Abundance...  Reap Significance!

 Grateful people make life richer
and happier -- even near death
By Dennis Heaney
President, The Christophers
January 2007

Recently I visited a friend who is terminally ill with cancer. He was originally diagnosed four years ago and has gone through a number of surgeries, chemotherapy sessions and radiation treatments which sent his cancer into remission.

Now the cancer has returned to three different areas of his body. But tell him that you’re sorry to hear this and he’ll tell you that he’s okay because he’s “living God’s will.” Only a miracle will give him more than six more months and, while he hasn’t given up hope, he accepts the prognosis and remains one of the most upbeat and positive individuals I know.

He believes he’s been blessed with a good life and that knowing his terminal condition has enabled him to make his peace with God and to spend quality time with his wife and children. He calls it “having plenty of time to prepare for my trip.”

Cancer’s great lesson

He says the cancer has helped him to truly see the things in life for which he should be grateful.

“Before cancer, my life had been about the next and bigger job, home, car, trip or whatever. It was never about where I was or what I had today, but always about tomorrow – when I would get more, do more or have more. Now, I stop to thank God for today, for here and now.”

Since our visit I’ve thought a lot about how he described his old life. From my perspective, many of us are in that same mindset. Someone told me about being on a cruise with a couple who began complaining on the first day about their small cabin and never stopped complaining about everything for seven days. Never once did they seem to be aware of how fortunate they were to be able to afford the cruise to begin with.

My good friend, Sister Mary Jean Meier, from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, gave me a quote from her friend, Father Peter G. van Breemen, S. J., the noted German author and retreat master, that’s so true: “Grateful people make life richer and happier – their own lives and the lives of others.”

Positive appeal

Think about the people you want to spend time with and whose company you really enjoy. Aren’t they the positive people who have a genuine joy about life, who take the time to laugh, to say thank you and who make you feel good about the time you spend with them?

They accept reality as it is and then find the bright side. For instance, some people will look at a rainy day and tell you it’s good for the flowers or that it cleans the air. That’s a terrific outlook.

Another person I know told me of regularly getting stuck in traffic jams on her only possible route home. Inevitably, she’d be so stressed out when she got home that it would take her a couple of hours to relax. She knew she should do something about her situation so she started using the time to think about the good things that had happened to her that day or about things for which she was grateful. It’s taken her about six months, but she is far less stressed and much more positive when she gets home.

Gratitude is a great quality and builds a positive attitude which is good for you and those around you. The Christophers use as our motto the old Chinese proverb: “It’s better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.” And every time I quote it I’m reminded that it’s an excellent prayer for building a positive attitude – and a grateful outlook on life.

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For a free copy of the Christopher News Note: “Positive Attitude, Positive Choices,” write: The Christophers, 12 East 48th Street, New York, NY 10017, or e-mail:

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