Celebrating Denny O’Leary’s grateful outlook on this World Parkinson’s Awareness Day.
I didn’t see it coming, but those three little words, when spoken to me by my dad a few years ago, would go on to profoundly impact my worldview.
You see, for three decades, Parkinson’s disease has robbed my dad of his ability to work, type, write, drive, walk and speak.
As a result, it has become nearly impossible for him to socialize with others or participate in personal hobbies. As obviously difficult as this disease is for my dad, it amazes me that you never hear him complain.
One day a few years ago- no doubt while preoccupied with my own day-to-day challenges- I was moved to ask dad how he remains so positive in the face of such difficulties. Dad responded immediately:
- I am grateful it wasn’t a more serious disease.
- I am grateful for the time to reflect on who I am and who God is.
- I am grateful for my relationship with your Mom; we’ve grown even closer.
Here is a disease that rips everything from the sufferer and he is grateful it wasn’t worse. A disease that forces him into isolation and he is grateful for the time to reflect. And a disease that causes him to be dependent on others and he is grateful for that relationship.
What a mic drop moment, I thought!
I stood to give my dad a big hug, but he interrupted my effort, and quietly but firmly said to me: “Sit back down, John. I’m not finished.” He continued:
- I am grateful for medical technology – and those who provide it.
- I am grateful for the empathy I’ve gained for others who struggle.
- When I can’t walk or speak, I am grateful for the days I could.
- When we drive, I am grateful for the handicap spot.
- I am grateful I was given the time to write Overwhelming Odds.
- I am grateful to still see, hear, learn, laugh and love
He paused for a moment. Cleared his throat. And added:
- And I am grateful for being healed, even if not cured.
In the midst of this terrible disease, his intense physical pain, the stress on his caregiver (my mom, another one of my heroes), his inability to earn a living, the resulting financial struggles and his immobility my dad chooses gratitude in the midst of a storm.
He claims a life he loves.
And I’m so glad he made me sit back down that day.
My friends, we all know people who have everything … and are grateful for nothing. We also know others who have nothing … and are grateful for everything.
The most joyful people and most effective leader choose gratitude.
They choose to seek good each day in their challenges, their opportunities, their relationships and their world. The reward of their choice is the discovery that in pursuing good today they unlock even greater gifts tomorrow.
Friends, today is World Parkinson’s Awareness Day. We have a choice today (and every day) on purpose or by default, to feel gratitude or ingratitude. In honor of my dad and the millions of others impacted by Parkinson’s, I challenge you to make the choice to fill your heart with gratitude.
It does not come by itself, but with other incredible companions that ignite joy, possibility and the truth that the best is yet to come.
This is your day.
Sit. Back. Down.
And Live Inspired.
Interested in hearing another person's perspective on living with Parkinson's disease? Check out John's interview with Parkinson's advocate and American Ninja Warrior Jimmy Choi on the Live Inspired Podcast. If you need an uplifting reminder about the power of community, this is the episode for you!