After nearly losing her life in an accident back in 1985, Ms. Bender developed an abiding gratitude "for the chance to continue living. I thanked God I survived. And where does that gratitude lead? To giving back."
Her physician challenged her to resist the temptation to "live as an invalid," and she went on first to volunteer with disabled people and then to open a small placement agency. The firm has since grown, and Bender has been awarded and cited for her work, locally as well as nationally, from White Houses both Republican and Democratic.
"The more gratitude you have, the more successful your life becomes," she says.
Medical science recognizes gratitude
Indeed, the grateful may be their own best friends.
Gregory Fricchione, professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, says gratitude is a key component of resilience, a person's ability to withstand stress – to swing with inclement weather, as a bridge does, and "give yet not break." Without resilience, he says, the 50-year-old, with three kids in college, who gets a pink slip "would be a basket case before noon."
The stress of rejection – being fired, for instance – is especially painful and may have a longer recovery time than other kinds of stress, he says. And while making a list of blessings wouldn't be the medical cure for major depression, and while it's difficult to feel grateful during the initial "shock wave" of the pain, a cycle of healing may start with something simple: "When you wake up, it's helpful if you have something you look forward to," suggests Dr. Fricchione.