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Remembering Our Gratitude Through Writing
Written by
She Writes
October 2019
Written by
She Writes
October 2019

This excerpt is from Tyra Manning's new book Your Turn: Ways to Celebrate Life Through Storytelling

About the Book

Creative expression through writing helps us uncover gems of hope and serenity, enabling us to navigate difficult times. Sharing stories with one another fills the space between us, inspires us, helps us forge stronger relationships, and teaches us that we’re more alike than different. In Your Turn, renowned educator Dr. Tyra Manning offers examples of stories from her own life, followed by an invitation for readers to delve onto their own emotional histories, with plenty of room to explore on the page with writing prompts and tools.

A guidebook for transformation through self-expression, Your Turn will spark readers’ creative thought and offers them a space to document their own self-reflection―helping them overcome challenges and move forward.

Remembering Our Gratitude Through Writing

First diagnosed with Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia in 2007, I still required treatment in 2017.  Dr. Keating, my physician at M.D. Anderson, ordered another dose of chemo infusion for
me. I had been fortunate and not required chemo for several years. I requested that the chemo be administered in San Antonio at an oncology clinic to avoid having to stay in Houston for several days. Dr. Keating agreed and coordinated my treatment with an oncologist in San Antonio.

Lying back in the large lounge chair hooked up to the medicine drip, I slept sporadically, checked my Facebook page, and took my computer out so I could work on my weekly blog. Stuck in the same chair and unable to move around, I found myself remembering.

I remembered childhood stories and wonderful memories of my time with my late husband Larry. My mind took a tour of major events and smaller incidences that stuck in my head because of what I had learned over the years. Over the hours I sat there, I remembered things I hadn’t thought of in years. Impacted by the holiday season, my mind wandered deep into my memory bank, bringing one particular Saturday evening to the forefront. My daughter, Laura, and I both attended the same church in Chicago. The church participated in a program with other churches, providing meals to homeless people in downtown Chicago on Saturday nights.

On the day I remembered so strongly, Laura went to the church early to work with the team responsible for making a huge kettle of soup. I joined the meal preparation team later that afternoon to make sandwiches and bag each meal.

We set up our station on the sidewalk in the heart of the city. The night was cold and rainy and, as I recall, we offered our special customers plastic rain capes.

I was stationed at the head of the serving line. As each customer approached the line, I welcomed them and went through the sandwich menu and fresh fruit choices. Next, they moved on to the soup kettle where Laura was serving.

“Good evening sir,” I greeted a man in the same way I had welcomed all of those who had preceded him. “We have bologna, chicken, and peanut butter sandwiches. We also have a variety of fruit for you to choose from. What would you prefer?”

The gentleman simply stood there gawking at me. I thought perhaps he hadn’t heard me.

“Sir,” I said again, “We have bologna, chicken, and peanut butter sandwiches. What will you have?”

After a long drawn out silence the gentleman said, “Ma’am, I haven’t been called ‘Sir’ in so long that I can’t remember the last time.” Tears welled up in his eyes.

I was so stunned by his emotional response that I stepped out from behind the serving table and put out my hand to shake his.

“My name is Tyra. What’s yours?” I asked.
“I’m Matt,” he said. Our hands clasped each other’s.
“It’s so nice to meet you Matt. There’s mustard or mayonnaise and hot coffee at the end of the line. Enjoy…and Matt...It’s so good to talk to you.”

Matt and the others who were served that night may have felt that they received gifts from those of us on the serving line.  Instead, I left knowing that Matt and his friends were the givers. The gift was mine; I will never forget Matt.

Soon after I recalled Matt and his colleagues, the head nurse came to unhook the IV from my arm and I was discharged for the day. My heart was still full and grateful for Matt and the memory of that lovely experience. It’s always true that when I reach out to help others, it turns out they are the givers.

Your Turn

UCLA’s Mindfulness Awareness Research Center has verified that expressing gratitude on a regular basis literally rewires our brains to make us feel happier. They verified that being happy gives us a sense of peace and tranquility and helps us avoid reacting negatively to difficult people or situations.

When I attended a support group to stop drinking alcohol, I realized that I often drank when I was sad, unhappy and despondent, and I drank when I reached a goal and celebrated a milestone. I drank when I was happy, and I drank when I was sad. I learned that I drank for three reasons: issues regarding people, places and things. Yet over time, I realized people, places and things in my life were the same things I loved, valued, and was grateful for.

During my quest for sobriety I began a daily ritual which I continue to this day, 38-years after I got sober.

  1. I say the Serenity Prayer five times aloud in the morning and in the evening.
  2. I write down three things I am grateful for every day. I keep this daily log in a notebook or journal. I refer back to it when I want to feel grateful and when I feel negative and need a shot of gratitude. It seems most important to journal at the same time during the day so it becomes as routine as brushing my teeth.
  3. I remember to tell the people closest to me that I appreciate them. I do it every day.
  4. While I dress in the morning, I remind myself about something I have done for someone else recently or something of which I am proud.

Now, you try……

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