When are filled with gratitude we are better able to keep in mind that all solutions are much more complicated than we are led to believe by the extremes of all concerns. Lincoln had known that reconstruction would take time and effort. Nelson Mandela when he was elected president of South Africa could well have exacted revenge on the Apartheid government that has imprisoned him for so long and had degraded his people for generations. But he took a complicated problem and discovered solutions that confounded and bewildered his detractors. The extremes of what to do would have created nothing but division and potentially much blood shed. His enactment of the challenging reconciliation committees was a powerful tool that empowered the feelings of gratitude that we can all develop by respecting, understanding, examining, experimenting and empowering the differences.
As we all know, times are tough right now. In addition to the acute medical crisis caused by the Pandemic, in our post COVID world, we are also experiencing what some have called a “mental health pandemic”.
What can each of us do to get out of this “Pandemic Induced Mental and Emotional Funk”?
One tool that each of us has access to is the simple power of daily gratitude. As a part of our series about the “How Each Of Us Can Leverage The Power Of Gratitude To Improve Our Overall Mental Wellness ” I had the pleasure of interviewing Rich Schaus.
Rich was born and raised just east of St. Louis Missouri. In 1997 he graduated from Central Bible College, married his wife Cara and was commissioned into the United States Army, Field Artillery. Since then he has added three children and two grandchildren to his family. Also along the way he has become a distinguished Toastmaster, author of Hero Quest. In 2001, Rich left the Army and began a career helping those living in poverty rise up and out of poverty. Everything in his life revolves around his key Bible verse, Micah 6:8 He showed you oh man what is good. To act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive into our discussion, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
I used to say that I had seen it all in my work with those that are poor and homeless, but I don’t say that much anymore. When I worked at a Crisis Shelter for Women and Children in Spokane, Washington, I came to work one day and standing in the smoking area was a camel. Camels are not natural to Washington, but a local food truck was using the camel as a marketing draw and took it for a walk. I failed to get a good picture for the cigarette company, I am sure I could have made money with that. In that job I also saw a tank in the parking lot one day as the local police were doing a raid at our neighbors. The people I get to work with are almost always interesting.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why do you think that resonates with you? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
“Some want to live within the sound Of church or chapel bell; I want to run a rescue shop, Within a yard of hell.”― C.T. Studd
I love people and want to help them find freedom from addiction and even more to find freedom from their past hurts. Sometimes this includes the barriers that society places on people like poor education, a lackluster justice system and more. It would be easier just to give a bed and meals to the people that I serve. There is little pushback on that element. There is much push back in trying to help our community get better so there are fewer people in poverty and very few that are homeless.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story about why that resonated with you?
Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Initially I almost gave up on it as the first 80 pages or so did not seem to have anything to do with what the 7 Habits were. I just wanted to know what the habits were and get started. However, all that set up was needed. Since then I have absorbed that book consistently. For the past seventeen years or so I have applied the habits to all aspects of my life and accomplished more than I could have ever imagined. The principles show up in nearly every personal and professional book that I have since read just repackaged or defined differently. I teach it to any who will take the time to listen.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I am working on a concept that will take a building that has 8 floors or so and turn it into a garden in the sky. The building has sat idol for many years because it was built on a drained lake but the water table is still high. The concept in short is that a solar powered pump would draw water to a tank on the roof throughout the day. The water would be used to water plants on each floor. At night water would be released to run hydroelectric generators that would also give power to the building. The plants would be sold and vegetables sold and some given to those in poverty). All profits would be used to fund programs to serve those that are in poverty. I call it Success to the Power of 4. (4 Bottom lines, profit, social benefit, positive environmental impact and a Spiritual benefit.)
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My wife Cara keeps me grounded. I tend to dream big and keep running until my personal engine simply runs out of gas. She forces me to stop, take pictures and enjoy the journey.
Ok, thank you for all that. Now that we are on the topic of gratitude, let’s move to the main focus of our interview. As you know, the collective mental health of our country is facing extreme pressure. We would like to explore together how every one of us can use gratitude to improve our mental wellness. Let’s start with a basic definition of terms. How do you define the concept of Gratitude? Can you explain what you mean?
Gratitude is a daily practice to see what you actually have rather than what you don’t have. It becomes easy to think that everyone else has it so much easier and better than myself. I remember seeing a quote once, when my feet were bare, and I had not the means of obtaining shoes. I came to the chief of Kufah in a state of much dejection, and saw there a man who had no feet. I returned thanks to God and acknowledged his mercies, and endured my want of shoes with patience . . .” Most of us have much more than we think we do.
Why do you think so many people do not feel gratitude? How would you articulate why a simple emotion can be so elusive?
Too often many people seem to have their eyes focused on what they don’t have. Some of this is there because of commercials or the social media effect. But even apart from all that it is easy to have the impression that everybody else has this perfect life and that I have some how been shafted.
This might be intuitive to you but I think it will be constructive to help spell it out. Can you share with us a few ways that increased gratitude can benefit and enhance our life?
It really comes down to gratitude can change your perspective. One lady that I know had a brother that when she was a child had a raging terrible temper. Most of the family had to walk on egg shells because of this. As a young lady she was not sure how to handle this and her parents were too busy dealing with the rages to be able to really help her. So how would gratitude help her with such a painful childhood memory? In order to cope with this raging brother she would consistently be reading. Her constant reading opened up her passion for knowledge and she ultimately became the salutatorian of her class. Now this does not excuse her brother’s behavior but when she reframed the whole experience to basically say that she was salutatorian at least in part because of her brother and acknowledged a bit of gratitude for it she was able to move past the trauma of her childhood.
Let’s talk about mental wellness in particular. Can you share with us a few examples of how gratitude can help improve mental wellness?
I spend most of my days at the Gospel Rescue Mission where a majority of those we serve are experiencing homelessness. Many of these men and women show up expressing feelings of hopelessness and depression. An early conversation that I often have with these men and women deals with what they would like to do with their lives from here. Almost every one of them will start to tell me about all the things that they cannot do. The list of perceived failures is typically long. Ultimately I do tell them that there is little that I can do with what they can’t do. Sometimes if the conversation is light enough, I will give them a phrase my father in law often uses, “Kick the can’ts in the pants.” We change the conversation to what they can do and what they have achieved and what they are thankful for. For those that seriously want life change this becomes the most important steps to get them on the road to getting off life on the streets.
Ok wonderful. Now here is the main question of our discussion. From your experience or research, what are “Five Ways That Each Of Us Can Leverage The Power Of Gratitude To Improve Our Overall Mental Wellness”. Can you please share a story or example for each?
Abraham Lincoln after being elected to the presidency and seeing the massive amount of division in the country made a choice that seems counterintuitive. He purposely invited his rivals, some of the men he had just recently competed against in the election, to join his cabinet. Later, when Lincoln, a northern Republican, ran for his second term he invited Andrew Johnson, a southern Democrat, to be his running mate. But what Lincoln did is he started a chain reaction that was essential to his success. He demonstrated that he was grateful for differences of opinion and ways of thinking. This empowered him to Respect our differences: Respecting differences does NOT mean that we agree with everyone. It simply means that we can disagree without accusing the other side of being the new Joseph Stalin or Adolf Hitler. In many cases when I have taken time to actually discuss differences with those that seem to believe differently than myself I learn first that they are human. Secondly, I learn that I am thankful for their perspective. Most of the time I discover that I was missing a piece in my own life philosophy that I need to invest more in. For Lincoln this created challenge to his own thinking and his rivals on his cabinet often disappointed him. Ultimately, timings and decisions were more thought out and more inclusive.
Second because his gratitude for different opinions allowed him to respect differences it empowered him to take time to understand the differences. Due to many factors too often, we are surrounded by people that look, act and think pretty much like ourselves. However, rarely are equitable and long-term solutions to be found in such circles. Thus, I am excited and filled with gratitude to hear the perspective of someone who has much different life story and experiences and knowledge than I do. They don’t have to be an expert on what is being discussed but a doctor, lawyer, social worker, student, trash truck driver will all come to a problem from a different angle. But if I am not filled with gratitude for their differences, I may discount their opinion. When I discount their opinion because of race, gender or profession I lose out. Lincoln met with Fredrick Douglas and learned much about the viewpoint of those men and women that had been set free from slavery. Lincoln had been told that the freed slaves could not fight. Fredrick Douglas set him straight and let Lincoln know that these men would demonstrate courage and boldness because they were working to set their families and friends free. In the Christian Bible there is a story of Rehoboam. When Rehoboam because king he had the opportunity to establish his kingdom for life. His father’s advisors directed him what he should do to win the hearts of his people. However, Rehoboam only listened to the youthful advisors that told him what he wanted to hear. As a result, the kingdom was divided.
As the civil war drug on for year after year and general after general disappointed him, Lincoln began to have reason to doubt his resolve and dedication to the cause. These doubts and his gratitude for differences empowered him to Examine his own biases and understand himself. When I am comfortable and feeling grateful, I can more honestly examine my own heart and biases. I have many. My soldierly discipline makes me quick to judge those that don’t plan or are constantly running late. Knowing that I have that bias makes me stop and not be so harsh. I am grateful for the awareness. For most we like to cover up our flaws and never bring them out into the light. That is unfortunate because it is in the light that we discover flaws to our character that can erode our influence. Lincoln’s courage to have gratitude for the process of personal growth led to him being wise. Before the war he had little military experience and little opportunity to learn how to wield an organization that grew exponentially as the government did during his tenure. Because he has filled with gratitude for what he did not know he was able to be humble enough to move to greatness.
All these powers of gratitude build on each other and enabled Lincoln and us to consider how our differences can lead to better results and a higher road solution. Lincoln had been working on a reconstruction plan. Unfortunately, his assassination prevented that from taking place. There were many in his inner circle that wanted to simply punish the confederacy. Lincoln knew that doing so would hurt the nation and more specifically it would hurt the newly freed slaves. He appreciated the differences and was working on solutions that would highlight the strengths of the African Americans. Andrew Johnson did not appreciate the differences and as a result hate filled the rebel states and white supremacy became the law of the land. When we are filled with gratitude for all the differences, we can examine the very best solution for all of those that are impacted. Too often when we are so self-focused, we only consider the easiest or the one solution that serves us personally the best.
Finally, when are filled with gratitude we are better able to keep in mind that all solutions are much more complicated than we are led to believe by the extremes of all concerns. Lincoln had known that reconstruction would take time and effort. Nelson Mandela when he was elected president of South Africa could well have exacted revenge on the Apartheid government that has imprisoned him for so long and had degraded his people for generations. But he took a complicated problem and discovered solutions that confounded and bewildered his detractors. The extremes of what to do would have created nothing but division and potentially much blood shed. His enactment of the challenging reconciliation committees was a powerful tool that empowered the feelings of gratitude that we can all develop by respecting, understanding, examining, experimenting and empowering the differences.
Is there a particular practice that can be used during a time when one is feeling really down, really vulnerable, or really sensitive?
Walks through the woods around my house
Do you have any favorite books, podcasts, or resources that you would recommend to our readers to help them to live with gratitude?
The Optimize APPs
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
He has shown you oh man what is good. To do justly, love mercy and walk humbly with your God.
What is the best way our readers can further follow your work online?
@grmmuskogee on Facebook or Twitter
Richschaus on Facebook
Thank you for the time you spent sharing these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!