A Matter of Character

A Matter of Character

November 22, 2011

Dear Friends::

I love November and December and that they bring with them a joyous season of “THANKS” and “GIVING”. With a grateful heart to each of you for your continued support in strengthening the families of the world, I offer a few personal thoughts on gratitude.

One of the great influences in my life is my grandmother Mynoa Andersen. She left with me the legacy of a grateful heart. I heard her often say: “I spend half of my time counting my blessings and the other half thanking God for them, and that leaves no time left to feel sorry for myself.” Blessings? I used to think as I recalled her life as a widow of nearly 40 years, raising most of her children alone. She endured the loss of two homes, one in a flood, and one they were driven from. She lived much of her life in what might today be considered dire poverty. Yet to her, she felt blessed beyond measure, for all she could see were the blessings. I learned from Grandmother that gratitude is a matter of character not circumstance!

Gratitude is a feeling of appreciation and thankfulness for blessings or benefits we have received. It is an uplifting, exalting emotion. Those who cultivate a grateful attitude are more likely to be happy and emotionally strong. (Please scroll down and you can see some of the research on the “Science of Gratitutde.”) Have you ever know a person with a heart full of gratitude to be bitter, resentful, or mean-spirited. I do not believe such emotions can exist together. I learned from my Grandmother that a thankful heart is a happy heart!

Gratitude when truly felt, demands expression. We can be thankful to our parents, family, friends, and teachers. We can express appreciation to everyone who has assisted us in any way. I will never forget the year our family decided to consciously thank people who did things for us routinely that we usually took for granted: the clerk in the grocery store, our teachers in school. We even thought of the mailman. We decided to write a thank you note for the mail carrier and leave it in our box. A few days later, we got a knock at the door. It was our mailman with a note of appreciation. He was retiring that December and he stopped in to say that in his entire career as a postal worker he never remembered having ever been thanked. He said it made his retirement complete. A simple expression of thanks touched both his life and ours.

I love the poem “How Different” by Richard Trench which helps us to recognize the effect of gratitude in our lives.

Some murmur when the sky is clear

And wholly bright to view,

If one small speck of darf k appear

In their great heaven of blue:

And some with thankful love are filled,

If but one streak of light,

One ray of God’s good mercy, gild

The darkness of their night.

(Richard Chenevix Trench)

With ingratitude we lose sight of the blessings we have by comparing them to the seemingly endless blessings of others. Developing an expectation that more is deserved can cause our plate of plenty to appear empty. Comparing distorts reality giving way to ingratitude.

It is my hope that we will approach the weeks ahead with an eye for and heart full of gratitude: That our homes and families will be strengthened by expressions of heartfelt thanks; and that we like Grandmother Mynoa, will experience a happy heart, born of a thankful heart.


Carol Soelberg President, United Families International

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