(This week is the ninth installment of the book, “The Band Director’s Lessons About Life”, which TCRN is publishing as a series during 2020. This week, band director and spiritual author Donald Lee relates a parable about gratitude. For a complete listing of previous episodes in this series, click here.)
Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.
OPRAH WINFREY (American actress, talk show host, TV producer)
“Mr. Lee, is my saxophone fixed yet?” Chuck scrambled across the band room in hopeful expectation. “No, it’s not,” I said as I set the grade-eight band scores on my music stand.
“Aw, drat.” Chuck’s whole body sank, his buddies laughing as they disappeared into the instrument storage room. “You’re really anxious to get playing again, aren’t you?” “Yeah. Sitting here working on music theory is a drag. Everyone else is having fun playing music,” he complained.
“I’ve got good news and bad news for you,” I said. The bad news is the repair shop said that saxophone isn’t worth fixing. The good news is we had enough money in our band budget to buy a brand-new tenor sax.”
“Really?” Chuck’s face lit up like a Christmas tree. “Yup. It’s right over here. Let me show you.” I walked over to a nearby desk and opened the new saxophone case. “Wow! Is it ever shiny.” Chuck’s hands almost shook in anticipation.
“Go ahead. Put it together—carefully.” Chuck gently slid each part of the saxophone out of its protective plastic bag and quickly inspected it as he assembled the saxophone.
“I’m glad to see you treating it with more reverence than you did your other saxophone,” I said. “That old piece of junk?” “It worked fine when I gave it to you,” I said.
“Yea, but then pads started falling out, and that spring broke…” “And you dropped it on the floor,” I added. “Yea, it sort of slipped,” justified Chuck. His buddies had noticed what was going on by now and gathered round.
“He gets a new instrument? After the way treated the other one? That’s not fair,” complained Adam. “I’m gonna break mine,” said Anthony.
“You have a perfectly good trombone, Anthony. Don’t do anything rash. Be grateful for what you have. It’s a good instrument,” I insisted. “Chuck’s going to take really good care of this saxophone. Aren’t you, Chuck?” I prodded. “For sure. This is beautiful,” Chuck intoned.
“You appreciate it even more now that you’ve experienced not having an instrument at all,” I said. “We quickly forget to be grateful for what we have in life and come to think we’re simply entitled to everything. It’s good to be without ‘stuff’ for a while.
“This is an important spiritual principle. We call it the ‘attitude of gratitude.’ By focusing on our blessings and being sincerely thankful for them, we attract more blessings. If instead, we focus on what we lack and feel bitter about what we don’t have, we attract more ‘lack’ to ourselves. What we focus our minds on grows—either blessings or curses.
“There are always things we don’t have. But we always have what we truly need. It’s our job to make the most of ourselves with what we do have.”
The boys were polite enough to be quiet during my mini lecture, but I don’t think they quite “got it.” Chuck, however, did treat his new saxophone carefully and blossomed into a fine young musician.
Like Chuck, we humans usually take things for granted and forget to be grateful. He expected to have a tenor sax that worked properly, until he didn’t have it anymore. He hadn’t paid for it. The school had just given it to him. Like all of us, Chuck took the attitude that he was entitled to it.
We often take for granted that there’s always food in the grocery store and gas at the gas station, that the lights will come on when we flip the switch, that the hot and cold water will come out when we open the tap, that there are roads going everywhere we want to go, and that there are dentists to fix our teeth and surgeons to stitch us up. All these “things” in our lives work because people work—millions of people working every day to serve us. How often do we remember to be grateful to them?
An attitude of gratitude, as the old saying goes, is absolutely essential for us as spiritual beings. I’m convinced we cannot make progress without it. Half our prayers should be “thank-you” prayers. God is always giving us what we need—not what we want. We generally want a life of ease, but that doesn’t help us grow. Just like band students need to be challenged with difficult music, we each need to be challenged with difficult people and difficult situations throughout our life. That’s how we grow—by learning to deal with challenges. God knows this. He gives us just the challenges we need, although we don’t realize it.
Three spiritual “attitudes” form the foundation of our progress: gratitude, forgiveness, and love. Pray for these attitudes, meditate on them, and let them express through you and into the world. It will change the world—but most importantly, it will change you.
An attitude of gratitude is the foundation of spiritual progress. Forget about what you lack and thank God every day for everything you have. Your life is already a miracle.
Donald Lee is a spiritual author and speaker. This article is part of a weekly series for 2020 in which TCRN is publishing his inspirational book, The Band Director’s Lessons About Life: Volume 1 – 50 Parables on Life’s Performance Cycle, in serial form – one parable per week. You can learn more about the author at his website: www.ComingHomeSpirit.com, or order a copy of his complete book on Amazon.