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Gratitude Provides A Change in Perspective

Practice thankfulness, not only at Thanksgiving, but every day of the year.

By Alan Roof, M. Div., and Ben Rose, M. Div.
Chaplains, Shepherd Center

The world around us often tells us what we lack. Advertisers try to make us feel we are not whole without their product. People we interact with will often attempt to feel superior by putting us down to cover up their own feelings of inferiority.

From all that surrounds us, our own thoughts will sometimes fixate on the failures we have endured. But giving thanks refocuses our minds and spirits on the abundance in our lives versus our deficits. By recognizing the incredible relationships and opportunities in our lives, we can change the lens through which we see the world. Instead of longing for the superficial, we see that deeper things – such as purpose in life, friendship and love – are already in our midst.

This does not mean suffering, grief and loss should be ignored during this holiday season. Suppressing these emotions or pretending they do not exist does not make them go away. We need to shed tears and cry out when we hurt. We can feel safer engaging and dealing with these emotions when they are placed in the proper perspective amidst the blessings we have been given. Grief over the loss of a loved one this holiday season should be expressed while giving thanks for the life they led and their continued presence in the memories or rituals that will be carried on in their physical absence. Our desire for material possessions or concerns over physical appearance should be acknowledged but seem shallow and small when we give thanks for the deep relationships and love we share with others.

In the past year, Shepherd Center patients and families have experienced many losses and changes in their lives. Naturally, there is intense grief associated with these losses. As chaplains at Shepherd Center, we have an opportunity to see – even in the midst of this grief – an overwhelming sense of gratitude revealed during a patient’s stay. It is this thankfulness that is often the first thing to allow a patient to move forward. Many patients and families are able, with gratitude, to focus on what they have to work with rather than what they have lost.

Not only during Thanksgiving, but every day of the year, make time to share with loved ones the things you are thankful for by focusing on their individual gifts and how they contribute to the abundance in your life.

For more information about the chaplaincy program at Shepherd Center, click here.

ALAN ROOF, M. Div., has been a chaplain at Shepherd Center since 2006. He provides spiritual support to patients with a brain injury, as well as their families. Alan has a bachelor’s degree from Chadron State College in Nebraska and a master of divinity degree from Candler School of Theology at Emory University. BEN ROSE, M. Div., has been a chaplain at Shepherd Center since 2010. He provides spiritual support to patients with a spinal cord injury, as well as their families. Ben has a bachelor’s degree from Elon University in North Carolina and a master of divinity degree from Candler School of Theology at Emory University.

About Shepherd Center

Shepherd Center provides world-class clinical care, research, and family support for people experiencing the most complex conditions, including spinal cord and brain injuries, multi-trauma, traumatic amputations, stroke, multiple sclerosis, and pain. An elite center recognized as both Spinal Cord Injury and Traumatic Brain Injury Model Systems, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News as one of the nation’s top hospitals for rehabilitation. Shepherd Center treats thousands of patients annually with unmatched expertise and unwavering compassion to help them begin again.