The “G” Word

Natalie Toops - Ecuador

March 11, 2019

The “G” word, this is not some new teenager slang for an explicit word,
this is a way of life. It is gratitude. Almost two years ago I discovered
the power of gratitude, and I have not let go of it since. I figured since
the holiday of thankfulness and giving is upon the United States, I would
share my thoughts on this practice.

I started acknowledging my appreciations when I began to dedicate myself to
yoga and its philosophies. It first took some time to think of my gifts;
then it became as easy as saying the alphabet. The more I began to practice
gratitude, the more I realized I had as well as have everything I could
ever need. I became content. I stopped obsessing over material items and I
stopped envying what others had, instead I smiled at what was mine. Having
less care for material items simplifies my life. I have less clutter to
worry about and less options to choose from. This allows me to place
importance on my possessions and focus my choices on what will better my
life, not what new outfit I want to wear for every day of the week. All in
all, gratitude has become my lifestyle and it has in turn made me a
happier, wholesome individual.

Traveling to another country that does not have as strong as an economy as
the United States has strengthened my gratitude. I was exposed to gifts I
had that I never even thought of as gifts before. Talking with my fellows
in more rural countries such as Senegal, allows me to have more gratitude
for my life here in comparison to what they have there. For example, in
Senegal most of the time toilet paper is not a thing, so your left hand
becomes toilet paper. While here in Ecuador you only throw away toilet
paper in the trash due to the differences in septic systems. Now I have
gratitude for something as simple as toiletries. However, what I appreciate
most as being a citizen of the United States are my opportunities. My
opportunities to travel, to learn, and to live. I constantly forget what a
blessing it is to hold a United States passport, which allows me to travel
almost everywhere whenever I want. I notice here in Ecuador the imbalance
of male to female ratio of students. A fair percent of girls do not
continue education past high school. Therefore, the life of the girls
transitions to one of a family instead of one of work and opportunity as is
in the United States. They have children young, stay at home, cook, clean,
and take care of the family. It is their culture, but it is one that is
limiting. Everyday the meaning of gratitude goes beyond material things, I
find gratefulness for every aspect of my life, including my mindset,
opportunities, and experiences.

Since there were no pilgrims on the Mayflower who took the land as theirs
in Ecuador, I will not be celebrating Thanksgiving this year. The joyful
day that brings family together and emphasizes thankfulness and giving is
only 24 hours. Then follows a weekend of sales to indulge on material
items. Personally, I do not wish to take one day to practice gratitude, I
wish to practice it as I do my breath. Constantly, without question, and
essential to my life. In return I feel content, happy, and filled with love.

Natalie Toops