A Subtle But Important Distinction

A man I respect immensely — kind, caring, smart, funny and filled with the sort of humility that’s truly inspiring — told me a story yesterday that I want to share with you.

It’s not really his story any more than it’s mine, but it is the sort of story that holds such wonderful wisdom that it deserves to be widely shared.

So here it is, slightly paraphrased:

A young man had made many terrible choices in his short life and the consequences had been dramatic. As a result of his behavior he found himself with few friends, a job that barely paid his expenses, living in an unheated attic room. His only belongings were  a sleeping bag and a battery-operated lamp. He was, quite understandably, miserable. Filled with self-pity, resentment and despair as to what the future might hold. 

One day he was complaining, as he regularly did, to a man who was trying to help him get his life back together. 

“I hate my life,” the young man said. “There’s no hope.”

“You should try practicing gratitude,” the other man suggested. “Make a list of things in your life for which you ought to be thankful.”

The young man sneered. “Really? Grateful? Did I mention the lack of friends, the shitty attic, the crummy job, the sleeping bag…? I have a hard time being grateful.”

“I didn’t say you should be grateful,” the young man’s friend said. “I said you should practice gratitude.”

PING! [sound of penny dropping]

The young man went back to his attic room that night.  It was very cold. He got into his sleeping bag, looked up and said “Thank you for this wonderful sleeping bag that keeps me warm” to whatever it is that keeps the earth rotating around the sun. 

His life, he swears, hasn’t been the same since. 

I love that story. it reminds me that practicing gratitude is how we become grateful. It’s the process, and it’s the antidote to my own envy, resentment, despair… in short, to fixing my often skewed perspective.

So, Thank you for that wonderful story.

The author, practicing gratitude for a great cup of Assam tea in a thermal mug, and a pretty garden to drink it in!

The author, practicing gratitude for a great cup of Assam tea in a thermal mug, and a pretty garden to drink it in!



  1. Janet Andrews on July 29, 2015 at 10:49 pm

    Lauren, thanks for sharing this touching and meaningful post. It cuts through so many things that distract us from what’s important. I think I’ll immediately start being more attentive to what I should be more grateful for on a daily basis.
    Kind regards, Janet

    • Lauren B. Davis on July 30, 2015 at 9:44 am

      Thanks so much, Janet. Lovely to hear from you.

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