My husband and I made a big mistake last fall.
We neglected to apply an autumn round of lawn fertilizer.
The lawn looked fabulous then, but once the frost broke we had a yard full of dandelions. I’m not talking about a couple here and a few there. I’m talking a bumper crop of the vile weed.
So off I went to the hardware store to buy the biggest bag of weed and feed I could find. I’ve applied it twice already, and the stems and leaves are obstinately curling. Enough of the weeds have died back that the neighbors have quit glaring at us. Dandelions are, after all, a suburban contagion, the incessant nightmare zombie of the plant world.
Except I think they’re pretty.
I didn’t always like dandelions, I preferred indoor plants to improve the indoor air. And I admit, the yard looks nicer if they’re not allowed to take over. But a decade ago when my then-four-year-old sat on his haunches and picked an overflowing fistful, he proceeded to hand them to me with a bashful, toddler grin, and I melted. Now every time the dandelions come around in the spring I think of my boy and the look of adoration on his face and I pray, “Thank you, God, for dandelions.”
Life’s like that, isn’t it? We’re quick to dismiss or throw away things which have hidden value, worth we cannot see if we don’t look at it with the eyes of a child. We wish we had a better yard, a bigger house, a more fulfilling job, a svelter physique. The grass is always greener, so they say.
Gratitude is a great way to pull our thought processes out of the weeds and take time to smell the flowers. Here’s five great ways to start practicing gratitude today:
1) Keep a daily gratitude journal.
I recently switched from an online to an old-fashioned paper planner and it’s been a great way for me to remember to write down something I’m grateful for every day. You can use a journal, a notebook or a sketch pad. You could start an Instagram or VSCO site and post a photo of something you’re grateful for every day.
2) Give someone a genuine compliment at least once a day.
Looking for good in your world as well as another person’s are great ways to nurture gratitude in two hearts. And the smile you’ll get in return will be priceless.
3) Find a cause you care about and give to it.
There’s pretty much a nonprofit organization for anything you can imagine, from food banks and homelessness to abuse prevention and recovery, and the list goes on and on. Volunteer. Promote your favorite one online. Join the conversation around you to realize how very much you have to appreciate all around you.
4) Write and mail someone a real paper letter.
The hand written letter is a dying art. Think about how thrilling it is to receive one tucked between all the nasty bills and worthless flyers! When was the last time you told a dear friend on paper how much they mean to you? Shared a funny anecdote? Said thank you? Writing a note is a tangible way to discover and express your gratitude, while at the same time bringing another person joy.
5) Connect with nature.
This is my favorite way of all to practice gratitude. I don’t even have to go anywhere exotic to discover and appreciate new things in creation. A simple walk around the block reveals red winged black birds and cattails, new buds and leaves on trees, the sun reflecting silver off the edges of a cloud. Connecting with nature helps us realize we’re part of something bigger than ourselves, and that helps us put life into perspective.
In my newest novel, Lead Me Home, the protagonist James struggles with his place in the world. At one point he says, “Few of us end up where we hope to be, but somehow we all end up where we ought to be.”
Like the dandelions and so much more that my son gave me that day long ago, that much is certainly true.
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