I was on the elliptical machine at my health club the other day, working the ole glutes.
I attempted to listen to music and skim through a magazine and think about how important it is to live with a grateful heart. Yes, all of this was happening as I huffed and puffed away. God forbid I try to do just one thing at a time.
Jumping out from one of the glossy pages was an advertisement. A beautiful model in workout clothes with a towel around her neck looked directly at me with a smile. The caption read, “Just do the next, good, right, honest thing.” And I don’t remember what she was selling me, or what the phrase even meant in relation to the product, but it hit me like a pie to the face.
It’s lovely to feel grateful, and to say we feel grateful. But, words and actions are two different things. It’s important to be vocally and internally thankful for the life we have, the food on our tables, our health, and all the precious people we surround ourselves with—but it must be about more than that. We must learn to express gratitude via our actions, time and again, by simply doing the next, good, right, honest thing.
What are some “next” things we can do?
We can show up. We can simply be there for those both dear to us, and those who aren’t. We can continue to have an open door policy when it comes to other people and their vast and wondrous differences. We can choose patience, love, and tolerance.
We can stop hitting the “reply” button on Facebook when a political news story, or statement from a friend rubs us the wrong way. We can take a moment to reflect upon the fact that we do not need to be right all the time. We can fight the good fight without trying to always prove that we are right.
We can treat our bodies with much deserved respect because health, in every sense, should always be cherished. Our bodies have done so much for us. Our bodies have forgiven most of our sins, and they wear the scars of our battles like badges.
What are some “good” things we can do?
We can research the many facets of sensitive issues prevalent in our countries. We can become well read on the stuff that makes our skin crawl with fear and anger. Fighting the good fight involves our committed action along with our words and knowledge. And fighting can be just as effective when done peacefully, respectfully, and quietly. We can halt our eye rolls and, instead, ingest real messages and facts so that we can be part of the solution instead of the problem.
We can become more involved in causes that help build bridges instead of walls. We can give our time, our money, our talents, and our hearts to valid charitable organizations working to right some of the wrongs we see happening in the world.
We can thank a veteran and those currently serving in the armed forces every time we see one. We can do this today, tomorrow, and in years to come. Thanking a veteran is not a blasé or phlegmatic action. These men and women serve our countries knowing full well that they could lose their lives defending our freedoms. And that is a selfless gift worth recognition and a genuine, “Thank you.”
What are some “right” things we can do?
We can let go of the grudges we’re holding close to the vest. Resentments and hurts both big and small are poison to the soul. They do real and lasting harm, and they deplete our energy. Sometimes being grateful in the present moment means letting our resentments peacefully float away. We can do this by finding space in our hearts to forgive those who have hurt us.
We can remember that we live and work in places that allow differences in opinion and active protest. Our homes encourage debate, conversations, and communication about issues that influence equal liberties and our individual pursuits of happiness. We must not ever take freedom of expression for granted.
We can do small things—we can plant trees, support local businesses, recycle like crazy, mentor a child.
What are some “honest” things we can do?
We can express real gratitude for the fact that a woman almost became President of the United States for the first time in history. She was not everyone’s choice, but her name was on a major party ballot, and that certainly counts as progress toward equality.
We can cultivate deeper compassion in our souls by not turning a blind eye to people struggling with things we cannot begin to imagine—people in countries currently under siege, being bombed to smithereens; people fleeing for their lives, with very few rights and a very bleak future; people who are merely surviving, and those who are hungry and cold.
We can hone self-awareness of our own personal struggles—why we think the way we think, why we do the things we do, and why we say what we say. We can continue to have the privilege of working on ourselves in order to change what we must change within ourselves so we can grow as human beings.
Doing it all
Speaking and acting in these truths will create a kinder and more reflective force for positive change. Good things are possible when we become collectively, and respectfully, grateful.
Sometimes, doing the next, good, right, honest thing is only about the smaller moment—being the last one to let go of a hug, closing our mouths and opening our ears, choosing kindness over judgement, quelling our combative emotions and opinions in order to savor time with our families, leaning in for a kiss, extending playtime with our dogs.
When we are truly grateful, we will surely bask in the enjoyment of the company we keep, the promises we make, the actions we take, and the progress that is sure to follow.