Gratitude gives us hope. Gratitude impacts how others perceive us. Gratitude is multidimensional. There is the personal gratefulness you have and then sharing your gratitude with others that makes such a big impact on how people see themselves. ~ Wendy

In the summer of 2020, while all of us around the globe were isolated in some way from those we love, award-winning photographer and filmmaker Doug Menuez found a way for us to gather safely, outdoors, to listen closely to the stories of seven individuals for whom grateful living is a way of life. The result of Doug’s beautiful work is a new video series, Grateful Voices.  In the short film and narrative below Wendy, who generously participated in the project, shares her story.

Wendy’s Story

“I was very fortunate to have a wonderful role model for gratefulness in my life. My mother was always grateful for everything that she had, and always taught that to me. I lost my mother to breast cancer when I was 16, and she was 50. But I think those lessons were just ingrained in me. We were very fortunate. I grew up having a sailboat. My father was a great sailor, and everything that my mother was grateful for, she wanted to share with others, so she always invited people out on the boat. I learned that gratefulness is also sharing–that was a big message from my mother.

When A Network for Grateful Living (ANGL) started to recruit hosts to lead monthly Gratefulness Gatherings, I was blessed to be contacted by a dear friend, Chuck Roppel, who is on the board and had worked with Brother David for many years. I had been on the website frequently sending eCards to friends. The idea of creating community really made me excited. I started my first gathering in Oakland, CA. in January 2019. There was a core group who never missed a month and then people would come who heard about our group. Strangers became friends and shared their practices and experiences of being grateful. Themes and focus areas provided by ANGL guided our discussions. Gatherings were filled with laughter, tears, and rich conversations.

I’ve seen people who, at first, were a bit doubtful, and now when I listen to their language, I hear gratefulness all the time. It didn’t take long before I witnessed a shift in some of the core members. The words “I am so grateful…” became commonplace outside of the gatherings. I realized that gratitude gives us strength. Gratitude gives us hope. Gratitude impacts how others perceive us. Gratitude is multidimensional. There is the personal gratefulness you have and then sharing your gratitude with others that makes such a big impact on how people see themselves.

One of the members since January 2019, Claudia, wrote the following: 

“I was raised to not verbalize about being fortunate or feeling fortunate about something. For everything positive, there was always the negative side. The Gratefulness meetings have given me permission to express the goodness, without feeling guilty about it, and of course to look and see it as much as possible, as my personal therapy.”

I think grateful living is definitely a way of being, but we need to have a process to kind of step into it. And sometimes, when people have come to the gratefulness groups, they haven’t had habits to cultivate gratitude, such as writing in a journal, and they begin to pick those up. I believe what you focus on expands. In a gratitude practice, people, activities, daily life adventures that we are grateful for keep showing up. I believe we have a choice of what lens to use to see the world. What’s working for us or what’s not working. I can shift my own energy when I look at all I have with gratitude.”

We invite you to share comments in the space below the video transcript which follows.

Video Transcript

Living gratefully has really taught me that we have control over who we are, what we do, what we appreciate. Because I think living gratefully can shift the neurons in our body. If I’m feeling not-so-happy about something, or I’m feeling stressed, it’s, thinking about, ‘What am I grateful for?’ And sometimes doing a little comparison thing. You know, like my mother had taught me. ‘There but by the grace of God go I.’ I might think, ‘I’m having a bad day, but boy, think of what I have that other people don’t have.’ So there’s a piece of grateful living that helps me be also compassionate in reaching out to other people.

It’s interesting to think of gratefulness as a vulnerable experience. Because I think of myself as not being fearful of being vulnerable. And being grateful because I am feeling vulnerable makes me feel safe, makes me feel like, ‘I really,’ you know, all is going to be well. I’m a big believer in synchronicity, and trying to listen carefully to the messages I get. And that might have something to do with gratefulness and vulnerability.

When I go through a challenging situation, I can lean into gratefulness to help me shift my mood, look at options differently. You know, there are times that there may be challenges with a relationship at work, and if I think, ‘Wow, I’m lucky to be working. I’m lucky to have this opportunity to do the work I love,’ it shifts that, oh, if this little thing isn’t working, that’s okay, because there’s a bigger picture here. And, uh, I can lean into gratefulness. It’s like a friend that I have sitting next to me. If I look over, it’ll always be there.

Gratefulness is a very big part of my work. I’ve been an executive coach for 20 years, so I’ve had the, the pleasure and the privilege of being a thought partner with people in business. And a lot of what I think is important at work is that we feel happy, productive, use our strengths, and so I think about being grateful myself, but I also work a lot on telling other people, ‘We need to be, to tell people when we’re grateful for them.’ And we need to appreciate them. Because the more you do that, the more they’ll do those things you appreciated.

It seems like such a simple equation to me, and I have a lot of discussions with leaders about that. That the gratefulness and appreciation piece of work is, we spend so much of our time at work, we need to make sure that, that people know that they’re valued and during this pandemic, it’s a time of, that we really need more empathy than we ever have had. And more compassion for what people are going through.

It’s being able to document what are the blessings of life and the things that really make a difference. And to stay connected to the people that really make a difference. Because that, to me, is what life is all about.

Thank you, Doug Menuez and team, including Executive Producer Pear Urushima, Director of Photography Luke Carquillat, and Sound Technician/Gaffer Dino Davaros, for the grace and heart you bring to your work in making it possible for the diverse stories of grateful living to be shared.

To watch more films in this series, visit Grateful Voices.

Grateful Voices