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Shannon Williams

I have been blessed in my life. I constantly remind myself of my blessings and God’s grace throughout each day. While things don’t always work out the way I want them to, I am still blessed personally and professionally, and I will never take my blessings for granted.

Last week, I was chatting with my husband about a devastating thing that happened to a friend of mine. Out of respect for my friend’s privacy, I won’t share her devastation, but I will share the message that permeated my spirit as a result of hearing her unfortunate news. That message was really one word: gratitude.

Even in the midst of my friend’s sadness, she still had so much to be grateful for, and I reminded her of that. I told her to acknowledge her pain and go through the necessary steps to deal with that pain, but to also focus on all that is good in her life.

 While I was incredibly sad for my friend and the pain that she felt, I had to live truth to the words I spoke to her, so I thought of all the great attributes and blessings of my friend. I reminded myself that while this was an incredibly difficult time for her, she still is in a far better position — health-wise, financially, socially — than so many people. I chose to thank God for blessing her.

Then my thoughts turned to myself. While I have goals and things I still want to accomplish, right now, today, I am happier than I have ever been before in my life. I am married to the man of my dreams — the one man I’ve always wanted. I have a healthy son who brightens every aspect of my day. I have siblings, family members and friends whom I love deeply and who love me in return. And I work at a company that has a 122-year track record of education and advocacy. Life is good, and I am blessed.

Oftentimes, we get so caught up in the woes of life that we forget about the wins of life — those things that really make us happy, the things that we have accomplished and the people who impact us. Bad times will come, but if we are intentional about our thinking, all the positives in our lives far outweigh the difficult and negative times.

Last week, when I was especially reflective, I believed God was trying to prepare me for something, but I wasn’t quite sure what that “something” was.

This week, I know God was preparing me then so that I could be a source of strength and guidance for someone else. He was also telling me to pay attention in the event I needed to implement changes in my life, either big or small.

Within the past week, two of my friends lost their fathers within days of each other. In addition, a colleague of mine unexpectedly passed away as the result of a heart attack. He was publisher of the Tri-State Defender, a Black newspaper in Memphis. Bernal Smith was only 45 years old.

I have had to comfort my friends, which has been tough because their pain and initial shock remind me of the feelings I felt when my mother passed away. I reminded my friends how blessed they were to have such committed fathers in their lives. I also encouraged them to embrace the good times they shared with their fathers and all the special moments. We also laughed together as we reminisced on the funny or quirky things about their dads. One friend said to me, “I miss Daddy already, but I know that even though I am sad, I am grateful because some people don’t even have fathers in their lives.”

When I learned of Bernal Smith’s death, it hit me hard. He was a good man who was a true advocate in his community. I believe I took his death so tough because he is in the same profession as me, doing the same job I do on a day-to-day basis. In addition, he is only five years older than I am. His passing hit home because I understand the stress associated with this type of work. It is the same type of stress that claimed the life of Amos Brown. 

Through Bernal’s passing, God’s message to me was to work on easing my stress load, to make sure I invest in my health and to take time for me, so that I can be the best wife, mom, sister, friend and newspaper president possible. 

Focusing on negativity is a stressor. Be intentional about your gratitude and the great things going on in your life. Doing so feels so good and is so much more productive than the alternative.


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