It was midnight and I was parked out in front of the hospital waiting to pick up two guys I had never met named David and Amal. A few days before, a friend of mine told me they had no way of getting home from work and asked if I could give them a ride home each night. I was in my twenties and had plenty of time on my hands so I was more than happy to oblige. They were Sudanese and their arrival in the United States was preceded by an unimaginable struggle.
Beginning in 1983, a brutal civil war began in Sudan. As kids living in South Sudan, their villages were attacked by the northern government and southern rebels. Families were wiped out and sent scattered. Thousands of young boys working the cattle far from the villages escaped. They walked for years traversing the African bush, trying to survive enemy soldier patrols, lion attacks, and crossing crocodile-infested rivers. Food and water were scarce and sometimes non-existent. Many died. The survivors eventually made it to refugee camps in Ethiopia and Kenya. They would be called “The Lost Boys of Sudan.” In the years before 9/11, they began coming to the United States to work and receive an education. David and Amal worked the night shift at the hospital and went to school during the day.
I was reminded of my time with those courageous guys recently when I watched the movie The Good Lie. There was a surprising quality among many of the Lost Boys that I had the pleasure to be with. They all had a spirit of deep gratitude. Given what they had been through, I would imagine they would be bitter, angry, and revenge seeking. I actually wouldn’t blame them for being that way. But they weren’t. They were all kinds of beautiful because that is what being thankful produces. Here’s how being thankful every day will change your life.
We all have reasons to be thankful.
You may be going through something incredibly painful right now. There is something in your life to be thankful for. Every day, find at least one thing. Discuss it with your kids. If we teach them to grateful, we will all live out the following.
We love better and deeper.
It’s amazing how often we take for granted the ones we profess to love. When we appreciate them today, we love them well. We need to be mindful that they are a gift to us.
We know peace.
An ungrateful heart will focus on what it does not have and wander in discontentment. Someone practicing gratitude will trust in what they have and know peace.
We experience joy.
When we are thankful, we experience our joy. Joy is not the absence of pain. Joy and pain consistently live side by side. When we are thankful, we experience our joy. We connect with it and live in it.
When we are thankful, we tend to notice our blessings. We recognize the ways we have been provided for even when the days are bleak.
Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What are you thankful for?”