The Power of Gratitude

Nov 24, 2009 at 2:11 pm |
By

Cami Walker, newly diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, couldn’t even get out of bed — until she discovered how thankfulness and sharing could change her life.

By Cami Walker (not pictured)

Just 563 days ago, I was a resentful, frustrated and angry woman. I had just been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and was unable to walk, work or enjoy life. I felt isolated and desperate. My new marriage was under great strain, and I truly believed that my life was in free–fall.

After months in this negative and frightening place, I was offered a way out of my misery — not by a doctor suggesting yet another drug treatment, but by a South African medicine woman named Mbali Creazzo. She suggested that if I stopped obsessing about myself and my problems, I would begin to feel some relief from this negative state of being.

One night on the phone, Mbali — my longtime spiritual mentor — bluntly told me, “Cami, you need to stop thinking about yourself for a while.”

At first I was defensive and even offended by her words, which seemed harsh at a time when I was struggling so much. But I decided to listen anyway as she gave me an uncommon prescription — to give away 29 gifts to others in 29 days. Mbali pointed out that, by giving, I was focusing on the things I was thankful for in life and the gifts I had to offer the world, rather than on what felt scarce in my life.

The first day of my personal–giving challenge was preceded by a sleepless night. I was feeling sorry for myself during a difficult multiple sclerosis flare–up. When insomnia hits, I often go through old journals and read them. I found a note that I’d made during that phone call with Mbali, two months before. The note said, “Give away 29 gifts in 29 days.” It was 3 a.m., and I decided in that moment to take the suggestion.

And so my 29–Day Giving Challenge began that morning as I gave my first gift: a simple supportive phone call to a friend also living with MS. I woke up the next day and the day after that feeling grateful for the new day and excited about what I might give away. And I began to notice that the more I gave away, the more abundance I was experiencing for myself. But there’s no way I could have anticipated the magical and miraculous shifts that unfolded for me over the course of the whole challenge.

  • I was feeling happier, healthier and more in awe of life.
  • I found myself smiling and laughing more.
  • My body got stronger, and I was able to stop walking with my cane by day 14.
  • My consulting business (I help others market their businesses) exploded with new, unexpected opportunities, and I was able to go back to work part–time by day 29.
  • I began connecting with a community of new friends in Los Angeles after feeling isolated in my new home for several months.
  • I reconnected with my community of friends from San Francisco and the Midwest, where I had lived previously.
  • My creativity opened up, and I began writing stories regularly.
  • I began experiencing a deeper intimacy in my relationship with my husband, family and friends.
  • The list of changes goes on and on. This is only the beginning.

    When I started out, nothing was planned. I simply began the day, and when I felt moved to give something, I did. Part of me initially wanted to plot out the 29 days in advance so I had the illusion of knowing what to expect. But collapsing into that old controlling way of being would defeat the purpose of the experiment. Instead, I just gave as I felt moved to — one day taking the time to listen to a friend’s worries, another day letting my husband pick the TV shows we watched. Simple gifts.

    I documented what I gave away and any observations I made each day. I began to post my stories online at www.29gifts.org. I thought, “Who knows? Maybe others will decide to take the 29–Day Giving Challenge and experience a similar positive impact on their lives.” So I decided to invite some friends to join me. Within a few weeks of sending the first invitation, more than 120 people had signed up and committed to the challenge. Today there are more than 5,000 committed 29 Givers in 38 countries.

    It may seem counterintuitive to give anything — whether it be affection, emotional support or tangible items — when you are feeling as if you don’t have enough. But giving reminds us how much we truly do have, and when we regain that focus, we find much to be thankful for.

    Has giving changed your life? Share your journey by posting comments below.

    Cami Walker is the author of 29 Gifts: How a Month of Giving Can Change Your Life.

Cami Walker, newly diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, couldn’t even get out of bed — until she discovered how thankfulness and sharing could change her life. By Cami Walker (not pictured) Just 563 days ago, I was a resentful, frustrated and angry woman. I had just been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and was unable to walk, […]