Right now, as all of us are stuck in our houses, we may want a lot more out of the world. But it’s unlikely that getting more material things will satisfy us. However, a key value that many of us overlook is contentment with all that we do have.
“Contentment” and “gratitude” isn’t on a lot of people’s minds unless they’re cutting a turkey with extended family while debating whether the planet is heating up. Though much has been written about the virtue of gratitude, people seldom talk about being grateful for what they have on a regular basis.
Why should we change that? Why bother being grateful for what you have when you constantly are scrambling for more?
First. frantically buying things like excess amounts of toilet paper or pasta sauce during a crisis won’t make you safer or more in control of the situation, nor will it satisfy you for more than a day.
Secondly, why should you be grateful and content with what you have? Well, look around you. Look at the device you’re reading this article on. Think about the things you most likely have in your home: a bed, several changes of clothes, and, we hope, a loving family in good health.
Now turn your attention to those who have none of those things. People who had to grow up in abusive families, people who have to sleep in church basements, and those who have to fight for a clean pair of pants.
The argument about feeling gratitude shouldn’t have to always return to the “think about what you have that others don’t” mantra. Fortunately, plenty of current and former New Trier students I talked to didn’t have to be reminded to be grateful. Several students said they’re thankful for things like reliable technology to connect to friends and family, which would have been harder if this crisis happened 20 years ago. They’re grateful that their loved ones can work from home and keep their families financially secure. The health of family members —especially vulnerable ones —is a blessing for many.
One of the students I talked to has a father who has struggled against cancer for years, thereby putting him at higher risk if he catches the virus.
The student told me that she was extremely grateful for a phenomenal support system — including people driving by the house to wish the family well.
We all know the phrase “be grateful for what you have;” because it’s been drilled into our heads from an early age, and for good reason. So, while 7-year-old Graham might’ve groaned at the notion of being satisfied with what he has, my 17-year-old self takes a moment to be thankful for what he has.