The Office of Religious Life and Service is holding weekly gatherings called “This I Believe,” during which faculty and staff share a part of their worldview and how it shapes their life.
Dr. Suzie Smith, PC Professor of Economics and Business Administration, spoke at the first installment on Monday, October 20. Following is a copy of her speech:
I believe that a thankful heart is the secret to happiness. Throughout my life I have experienced successes and failures as well as blessings and hardships. During the difficult seasons, I have done my share of complaining and found that wallowing in my problems just makes me angry, frustrated, and bitter. When I spend my energy counting my blessings, no matter how small they may be, joy replaces that bitterness.
Today I speak to you sporting a 2-week old broken arm. But it is my left arm, and I’m right-handed. I can still walk, think, breathe easily, hear, and see. I am thankful that my broken arm has given me fresh eyes to be thankful for what does work! When I think about it, it is miraculous most of our body parts work most of the time!
My grandmother used to say, “It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.” When I was a little girl and took everything literally, I couldn’t understand this saying – there were no candles in the room. As I grew up, that quotation echoed in my head in dark times, and I learned what she meant. By doing something positive, I could make a dent in the negative. I quote her often to my daughter, who finally gets it now that she is in high school.
Now the academic researchers want in on this not-so-secret recipe. In her website, “The Science of Gratitude,” Stanford researcher Dr. Emma Seppala states that a spirit of thankfulness counters negativity in real, provable ways. Grateful people suffer from depression less, are less likely to experience envy and materialism, and have better health and stronger relationships.
My mother required that I write thank-you notes from the time I was old enough to hold a pencil. Early in life, I saw those required notes as a dreadful duty I had to endure before I could move on with Christmas. As I faced a mountain of thank-you notes for high school graduation gifts, I realized that how I tackled this task was my choice. I could mechanically force myself to write all the notes, saying all the right canned phrases, but I knew it would sound forced. Or I could view the job as an opportunity to connect with each giver in a personal, positive way, thanking them for both the gift and their support for me through the years. It was a turning point for me as I learned to truly enjoy thanking people. The feedback I received from the recipients of some of those notes built lasting connections and encouraged me to keep up my newfound habit.
Sometimes it takes losing something before we appreciate it. I don’t want to take that chance. The journey is more fun when I notice and appreciate all that I have instead of focusing on what I don’t have.