I’ll never forget the day that we met our four year old adopted daughter.
My wife and I were sitting in the civil affairs office for the Laoning province in city of Shenyang. We had already been in China for two weeks, having picked up our son in a different part of the country the week before. We missed our four kids back at home. We were both anxious and tired. Excited and exhausted.
We arrived first and waited in silence. The moment finally came. We turned around and watched her walk around the corner of the room. I was shocked by what I saw.
She Was Not What I Hoped For.
Prior to being matched with her, we had the opportunity to look over a file detailing her medical and developmental history. I use the word “detail” loosely.
Despite how little it told us about her, we combed over every fact on those sheets of paper. We stared at pictures of her for hours, wondering how severe her cerebral palsy is. Wondering what her personality is like. Wondering who she is.
When the time came to travel to China, we picked up our son first. We had gone through the same exact process for him. When we finally met him, we decided his file was inaccurate. It failed to convey how amazing he really is.
But when our daughter walked around that corner, I felt that we had been lied to. She appeared much worse than I imagined. Weaker. Paler. Her problems more severe.
She could barely walk without falling down. Her face was masked with confusion, as if she was too slow to process everything that was happening around her. Her chin and her dress were covered with drool.
As she sat in my lap, the only thought that came to my mind was, “What have we done?”
This Little Girl Has Taught Me Something About Gratitude.
Most of the time I am seeking to change my world and circumstances so that they are better, and once they change, I express my gratitude.
Some of my desires are good, such as wanting my daughter to be more mobile and less clumsy. Some are selfish, such as wanting a more luxurious car. One that wold turn your head if you saw me driving it.
But as I held this little girl, I was uncertain that she would ever get better. I wanted to help a little girl whose problems were mild, not severe. I wanted a little girl who, with time and therapy, would walk normally, not always require assistance. I wanted a little girl that was intelligent and independent.
In that moment, I was not filled with gratitude. Only regret.
My problem was simple. I misunderstood the concept of gratitude. Anyone can be grateful when life is good. But true gratitude isn’t based on what whether or not we get what we want.
Thanksgiving is about gratitude for what we already have, especially when it isn’t exactly what we want.
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I’m Sure You Have Your List of Things You Have but Don’t Want Too.
- Painful, obnoxious relatives.
- A dead end job.
- A rusted bucket for a car.
- A spouse who doesn’t understand and maybe doesn’t love you.
- No spouse or significant other at all.
I’m not suggesting that you don’t desire change for your life. Living a better story is all about choosing something better. But I am suggesting that in that desire, you can also be grateful for what you already have.
If you don’t see the value in what you have and who you are right now, you are missing out on right now.
My initial response was to write my daughter off as pathetic. She is anything but.
It has been less than four months since that day. Her ability to walk has improved so much, most do not even notice her strange gait. She occasionally drools, but is quick to deal with it when it happens.
And she is smart. Very, very smart.
I love her and I am grateful that she is mine.
How I felt about her didn’t change when she started improving, though. It transformed once I started being thankful for who she is, problems and all.
What do you already have that you can be grateful for today?
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