C’mon Let’s Laugh: The Power of Gratitude

By Marilyn Sprague-Smith M.Ed

Many an author has written about the transformational power of gratitude. Rarely have I seen a person who embodies the essence of gratitude and expresses it freely throughout every second of every day. I’m truly blessed to now have that opportunity as Spirit, my Bishon Frise´, and I settle into our new temporary home.

Each day I have the privilege of sharing time with Robert, a retired U.S. Air Force Colonel, whose Alzheimer’s continues to progress. One may think that years of military discipline results in a stern countenance. Not so with Robert.

Mornings usually begin with Robert announcing his entrance in a “Ta-Da!” kind of way.

“Good morning, here I am! It’s good for me to see you,” he exclaims as walks into the breakfast room, thrusts his arms straight up in the air and plants his ninety-plus year old athletic physique in a triumphant pose. His face is always an ear-to-ear grin with incredibly alive, sparkling eyes. I know he doesn’t really know who I am, yet his greeting makes me feel like one of his beloved family members. To see him greet the morning is to see gratitude for life.

To be with Robert is also an opportunity to hear a continuous stream of appreciation. He is quick to express gratitude for every act of service with a genuine “Thank you kindly.” Whether receiving a cup of coffee, an afghan placed on his legs while he lounges in front of the fireplace, or a little guidance to make sure he gets his electric shaver across the tough to reach spots, there is a spontaneous “thank you kindly.” To experience his gratitude for all the small acts of kindness is to learn how to express appreciation for all that one receives.

Living in gratitude seems to heighten Robert’s sense of humor too. During a recent breakfast conversation, humor waltzed right into our conversation to create a shared moment of mirth.

As with many individuals diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, Robert tends to ask repeatedly the same questions. One of his frequent inquires has to do with my marital status. Each time I share with him that I am in the process of a divorce, he expresses concern. On this particular morning, Robert was seated at the head of the table eating his breakfast. I was sitting to his left sipping a cup of tea, while Spirit was cuddled up in my lap.

“Honey, you’re married aren’t you?” Robert began.

“No, Robert, not anymore. For right now, it’s me and Spirit,” I replied.

There was a long pause as Robert seemed to process my response. He kept looking down at Spirit, a mass of white fur rolled up in my lap, and then into my eyes. After several minutes elapsed, his face beamed with a large grin and he broke the silence saying, “Honey, a beautiful girl like you may want to consider filling your arms with something more than a fluffy white ball of fur.”

Laughter peeled forth from both of us, startling Spirit who jumped to the floor and contributed to the ruckus with a series of barks.

In the moment, it didn’t seem to matter that March is the celebration of National Women’s History Month, which pays tribute to women who have fought for equality throughout centuries. In the moment, it didn’t seem to matter that the first piece of legislation signed into law on January 29th by newly inaugurated President Obama was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act, which finally ensures women will receive equal pay for equal work. In the moment, I was feeling grateful to be sharing laughter with Robert and taking into consideration his suggestion to fill my arms with something more than a fluffy white ball of fur.

Truly, life with Robert is an opportunity to discover how gratitude helps us forget the potholes in the road and celebrate the journey with joy and laughter. So, C’mon, Let’s Laugh! as we walk our path expressing gratitude for everything. “Thank you, kindly.”

Marilyn Sprague-Smith, M.Ed. is an award-winning trainer, author, professional speaker and certified laughter leader. She and Spirit, her white male Bishon Frise´, reside in Ft. Collins. Call 336-314-1700 or visit www.miraclesmagicinc.com for info about her keynotes, meeting energizers, breakout sessions and customized training services.

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