Special Message: Southern India has been battered by rains in recent days and weeks, and the colonies we serve are in various states of need. Dr. Susan and her team are out assessing those needs and ensuring that those we serve have the food, medicines, and shelter they need. Your generosity will increase our capacity to respond during this natural disaster. Please consider donating towards Monsoon Relief Aid this holiday season

I’ve learned, like these impressive examples in India already know, that gratitude is more than something that is nice to have. It’s more than a theme for a Thanksgiving-time blog post. It’s something that can change your life, your entire attitude, your happiness. Gratitude is powerful. It is healing.  Gratitude shifts us from thinking about ourselves and what we want or need, to thinking about others.  Gratitude doesn’t mean we’re happy with our circumstances, but it does lead to greater happiness, no matter what our circumstances.
What RSO volunteer doesn’t come home with vows to be forever grateful for their many blessings? The problem is remembering that vow of gratitude after a few comfortable months back home–when lives of health and prosperity seem so normal that we take it all for granted. Here’s to choosing Thanksgiving every day, which is also choosing happiness.

The people we met in India are living proof that we can always be grateful. It’s easy to be grateful when life is going our way, but I encourage each of us to push ourselves to be grateful in every circumstance.  Gratitude will overcome disappointments and despair. It will surpass bitterness and pain.  

As one of the coordinators this summer, it was my job each night to lead “highs and lows” at the dinner table. Each volunteer would reflect on their day and share a high and low moment. After lots of practice in reflecting,  on the last night of each session I’d ask each volunteer to share something they would take home with them–a lesson they wouldn’t forget from their time in India

Many volunteers shared that they will go home more grateful. Something about being a volunteer in India makes you more grateful for things like hot showers, air conditioning, unlimited food options, toilets that flush toilet paper, and drinkable tap water–things that we maybe didn’t remember to write down on our list of blessings before we lived in India. Like many of the volunteers shared, one of the greatest lessons I’ve brought home from India is that we can be grateful in any circumstance.

This is Appu. He lives in a leprosy colony, doesn’t walk very well, and can’t speak.  However, he seemed happier than most people who have perfect health. When we played music, he was one of the most enthusiastic dancers. It’s clear he didn’t dwell on what he doesn’t have, but is grateful for what he does have.

People like Appu are not hard to find in the leprosy colonies.  Look at these smiles.

Time after time, I was amazed at how they were able to look past their struggles and find joy. “How do they choose happiness in such conditions?” I pondered. I’ve since learned that gratitude is one of the powerful secrets they utilize to find happiness.

I was pregnant the entire time I was in India, and  just over a month after coming back to the U.S., our baby boy came way too early. He was perfect, just premature.  He died within minutes of being born. It’s been the deepest sorrow we’ve ever known.  I’ve had many moments feeling like I can’t be happy again. Then I remember the blessings I do have.  It changes everything. It slows the tears. How can I be angry or depressed when I realize all I have to be grateful for?


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