Cancer survivor and blogger Stacie Chevrier writes our latest guest post, which explores why gratitude and compassion are the foundations of her religion.
Over a year ago, I watched a talk show where the host asked their guest, “What’s your religion?” The interviewer wasn’t talking about whether the guest was Christian or Jewish or Muslim or Hindu or something else. They were asking about the beliefs they found most important and prevalent in their life.
This got me thinking about my own religion and for quite some time, I could not answer the question. Mainly because for the last year I was fighting for my life and too sick to get out of bed, let alone contemplate profound questions of my existence.
In September 2014 I was diagnosed with a rare neuroendocrine cancer affecting one in 10 million. Doctors told me I needed surgery and no additional treatment. Months after recovering from surgery, the cancer was back with a vengeance and I underwent seven torturous months of nausea, terrible digestion, chemotherapy and another surgery. It was scary, exhausting and no doubt, the worst days of my life. Fortunately, in January, my doctor told me there was no evidence of disease in my body.
Since I’ve been out of the darkness, I have spent much time looking inward to find meaning in my suffering and the suffering of others. During my times of deep thought, the, “what’s your religion,” question continued to reappear. I realized to move forward, I would need to find my response. The answer came to me and was conceived from my own suffering and healing.
The beliefs that I want to drive everything I do and are most important to me are compassion and gratitude.
Without crawling into someone’s body, you can never know the extent of their pain. However, cancer gifted me with tremendous empathy for people who are suffering. When I see someone in physical, mental, emotional, financial or spiritual pain, I feel so deeply for them. I want to tell them, this too shall pass, the mantra I adopted and recited during my most difficult moments. I want to tell them on the other side of this pain an enormous blessing will be born, which I know to be true in most circumstances.
When I see someone who is suffering, I immediately send them thoughts of strength, peace and whatever they need to get them out of darkness and into the light. There are times I see, read or hear of stories of people hurting and I’m brought to tears. I know suffering and do not wish it on anyone. I even have compassion for those who have committed heinous crimes because somewhere along their way, they suffered so much it caused them to transfer their hurt to another. When I send them peace, healing and love, I also send these thoughts to their victims.
Of course, I am beyond grateful for being alive and I say thank you multiple times a day. I spend my time before I fall asleep running through the list of things I’m thankful for. My health, my perfect organs, my healing, my strength, modern medicine, my doctors, my legs, the air in my lungs, my home, husband, pets, family, friends, etcetera. I often spend a few minutes in the morning to say thank you for the day. I say thank you in advance for the healing of anyone who is in need, including many people I do not know. When I’m out, I try to say thank you to more people than the day before. I look them in the eye when I say this because I want them to know I am truly grateful for them, even if all they did was bag my groceries.
Gratitude is the great multiplier of blessings. The more it is given, the more it will be returned.
Compassion and gratitude cost nothing, but can make the recipient and you immeasurably wealthy. Think of a time when someone acted with overwhelming compassion towards you or expressed thankfulness for something you did to make their life better. How did you feel? I bet you and the other person felt amazing. Imagine if more people used these two principles to guide their time here on earth. I assure you the world would be extraordinary.
I will never be perfect, but I will always strive to be more compassionate and express more gratitude than the day before.
It took me a year to figure out my own religion. I encourage everyone to put some time and thought into what interests, beliefs or activities are most important in their life. In the meantime, I would be grateful if you borrowed mine.