Simply Grateful

Weekly Reflection, Sunday, May 31, 2020

By: Tracy Harvey

Like many, my heart has been heavy over the past few months, as it has been easy to focus on all that has been lost. As a journalist, however, it has also reminded me what has been gained.

About one month into the pandemic, I interviewed a kind, 90-year-old woman named Pauline Mitchell, who had survived the Coronavirus. She had contracted the illness at a rehabilitation center in Henrico County. “Has it been difficult being alone, isolated from family and other residents while battling this illness?” I asked her. Her lighthearted answer surprised me and reminded me of something my late grandmother would have said. “You cannot go through life feeling sorry for yourself, worrying about what’s going to happen to you. You just do the best you can.” She spoke about the love of family and the wonderful and supportive nursing staff that was taking such good care of her.

My conversation that day with Pauline stuck with me. Just as my two other interviews with COVID-19 survivors did.

They were simply grateful.

Despite isolation, uncertainty, and absolutely terrifying circumstances, the experience only left them with more peace in their hearts. “I wake up and realize I’m alive,” said Thomas Bryan, a 50-year-old father of two who became critically ill with the virus after traveling to San Francisco in mid-March. “I would encourage people to be patient, to love each other, and focus on being grateful for who and what they have in their lives.”

I truly believe God puts difficulties in our path, not to hurt us, but to remind us what is really important. I think a cancer diagnosis and a high-risk pregnancy in 2014 certainly changed my life. A few years later, heartbreak somehow eventually led to even deeper gratitude.

I have learned, through prayer and listening to the stories of others, that there is a connection between gratitude and joy. Author Brené Brown writes that “happiness is connected to the circumstances in your life, but joy is a step beyond happiness. Joy fills you with light, hope, and love. Joy is what happens when you realize how good things really are.”

Feeling grateful isn’t always our first response to suffering and it’s certainly not an instinctive emotion. It comes with practice, prayer, and reflection. But most of all it comes through love. Loving ourselves and loving others.
I knew when I was 12 years old that I wanted to be a journalist because I wanted to share inspiring stories. I wanted people to hear about the good in the world, despite all of its hardships.

Many of the people I’ve interviewed over the past twenty years have left an indelible impression on me, just like 90-year-old Pauline Mitchell. She helped ease some of my own sadness by reaffirming what I know in my heart to be true. It’s only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness, will we discover the infinite power of our light.