Recently we drove into the sunset and the interior of Alaska. We had big plans to join friends for a weekend-full of fun. During our first night in a historic roadhouse that was built during the early gold mining and railroad days, our six-year-old, “Little One” coughed the entire night. To make matters more interesting, our lodge neighbor, on the other side of the paper-thin “historic” wall, was coughing just as much – it was a coughing concert. And there was a crowd talking excitedly down the hall….lots of deterrents to sleep.
It was gratitude that finally got me to sleep (and my daughter’s stuffed animal that had fallen away from her). As my partner and I continued to shuffle our irritated and awake bodies, hours after we had crawled into our “historic”, creaky bunk beds, I knew there was no use getting mad. I also knew that we would have to cancel our plans and head home – and prayed that somehow our children would adapt to this news in the morning.
After I asked the hallway guests to be quiet at about 1AM, I had a brief chat with the husband of our other neighbor who told me about his wife’s emphysema (I had offered cough medicine in my desperation). Talk about a paradigm shift. Stephan Covey uses this term and a great example in “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” to describe how we can totally shift our emotional response to a situation when we have more information. This is what happened to me. Having lost my dear grandmother to emphysema, I was suddenly transformed into deep compassion and concern for this neighbor, whom I had never met. Suddenly instead of being upset I was awake, I had purpose in my awakened state. I was awake to pray for her.
In addition to this, I also put our daughter’s illness in perspective and gave thanks to God for our overall wellness. For I knew that our situation, albeit inconvenient, could be a whole lot worse. No one was throwing up, crying, burning up with a fever, had lice or was in desperate need for medical attention. We were warm and safe. I knew my worst case scenario was to be awake all night and that I’d still be okay if that were the outcome. I decided that if I wasn’t going to see the Northern Lights while I was awake late into the night, that I could at least give thanks to God for all that was very good – and pray for our neighbor who has a truly awful disease. And, I fell asleep.
After one of the most delicious, homemade breakfasts we’ve enjoyed out, in the roadhouse, we ended up sharing a friendly conversation with our neighbor. She was just a lovely and warm person, with whom the children immediately opened up and enjoyed. I never did get her name – but I will always remember her warm smile and heart. I will continue to pray for her as I am kept awake a night – and give thanks for the abundant blessings in our lives. This restless night taught me how transforming gratitude is. Who knew gratitude could be a sleep aid, too?