Jeremy Statton

Living Better Stories

Be Grateful for What You Already Have

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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.

The moment we first met her.

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. 

(If that statement resonates with you, consider sharing. You can tweet it by clicking here.)

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.

Happy Thanksgiving.

What do you already have that you can be grateful for today?

You can leave a comment by clicking here.

About Jeremy Statton

Jeremy is a writer and an orthopedic surgeon. When not ridding the world of pain, he helps you live a better story. Follow him on Twitter or Facebook or Google +.

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16 Replies

  1. DDF

    This post is why I am growing to love Jeremy Statton…

    I am thankful for my beating heart and my weird family and my warm home and my beautiful, patient wife and eyes to see the computer screen on which these words are appearing and on and on and on it goes. I’ll say in just three words: Thank you, Jesus.

    May God bless you and your family this Thanksgiving, Jeremy. I know you are a grateful man.

    Now three more words: Keep writing, Jeremy.

  2. Thanks, Don. Thank you Jesus.

  3. Kandace

    This is beautiful and I could feel to some degree what you were feeling when you first saw your little girl. It brought tears to my eyes as I read your honest response and your willingness to share what we all can struggle with. I love the way you were able to work through those emotions and now share a life experience that can help us focus in on what true gratitude is. Thank you!
    I am grateful for my husband and his willingness to love me even as Christ loves His Bride. He truly has gone beyond the call of duty to love a girl from the wrong side of the tracks. His upbringing and mainly Jesus caused his heart to be too stubborn to throw me away when most men would have. I know Jesus better because of my husband’s love for me. And there is nothing I want more!

  4. Tennseahorse

    I am grateful for my husband who is my best friend, he loves me even when things aren’t perfect and tells me everyday… For two wonderful parents who have always put their children first and who stayed together through some difficult times… For my greyhounds- my babies- who give me a sense of purpose and put a smile on my face after a long day.

  5. I’m grateful for a job (actually, a handful of them) and that I don’t have a family to feed right now.

  6. Trust, that can be expensive.

  7. Thanks for sharing your list.

  8. I’m still working on it. I even feel those same emotions when my “normal” biological children act up.

  9. Charles Horwitz

    Your daughter is beautiful, Jeremy. She and your family are a gift to each other

  10. Thank you. She is a gift. If we stop and think about it, we are all surrounded by gifts.

  11. Eva is beautiful… What a blessing to be able to adopt such a little star 🙂

  12. She is and it is one of my greatest joys.

  13. Wow, Jeremy. What a beautiful post. I love your honesty and I know I certainly am guilty of instantly not being grateful when something isn’t how I think it should be. Thank you for this powerful reminder. She is beautiful!

  14. Thanks for being so honest in the post Jeremy. It’s refreshing.

    What can I be grateful for today? The fact we had to replace our roof this week. It means we have a roof over our heads.

    For my family. There’s trials and tribulations but we love each other regardless.

    My job. Just like family, there’s things I don’t like and wish would change but it’s a job. One I like and one I’m grateful to have.

  15. Jeremy, you call us to better … in the way that we can see Jesus saying, come, this is the way I’m working.

  16. Thanks, Amy. No doubt you could tell a story of your own of being thankful for what you have but didn’t want.

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