It's Thalen's Turn column: Being grateful for what I have

The following is an opinion column written by an Echo Press editorial staff member. It does not necessarily reflect the views of the Echo Press.

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My family. Back row from left, my brother Trent Koloski, myself, my wife Jade Zimmerman, my sister Brianna Oates and her son Kyrie, my brother-in-law Darius Oates and my brother Blake Koloski. In the center from left is my sister Skylar Hjelm and my mom Darla Vargas with my daughter Sonny Zimmerman on her lap.
Thalen Zimmerman / Alexandria Echo Press

Be grateful for what you have.

We have probably all heard this a time or two. Practicing this phrase as a philosophy doesn't mean neglecting personal feelings or circumstance currently keeping you down but rather it teaches you about giving sympathy and empathy for those in lesser circumstances than yourself.

My mom taught me to be grateful for what I have.

By my teens, life events had put my mother between, as they say, a rock and a hard place. She found herself alone raising five children while working overnights to make ends meet. A situation that takes not only an emotional toll but a physical one as well. Money was tight and her personal life was barely existent but mom made due. There were bad days but she always persevered because she was grateful for what she had — her children. And even when it became tough, she always kept a roof over our heads, food in our bellies and clothes on our backs.

That is what she always taught us: No matter what life throws at you, be grateful for what you have because someone always has it worse than you. And that's definitely the truth. There are people out there, some in our own community, with no homes to go to, nights where they go to sleep hungry and their only clothes are worn down and damaged. And throughout the world, there are those who have it worse than that.


When you understand that, it is easier to look at your own situation and not dwell on what you don't have. But rather be thankful for what you do have. And with that comes peace and happiness which seem much more achievable.

I'd like to say I picked up on my mom's lesson early on but that wouldn't be truthful. It wouldn't be until I moved out of the house that being grateful for what I have started to resonate. Growing up, I would often wish I had what some of the other kids had or looked a certain way. Today, I see the bigger picture.

Now, my own family is all I truly need. You can take my house, my cars, my possessions but as long as I have my wife, my child, and my family — that includes my dog — I will always have a reason to be happy and grateful. As long as I have love. That is probably how my mom felt too. Of course, she made sure we were provided for but if it came down to it, she would be just as grateful if all she had in the world were me and my siblings.

Love is something else that came from mom's lesson. As I said, if you're grateful for what you have, it can lead to empathy and sympathy because you understand there are others more in need than yourself. With that comes love.

When my mom came across someone in need of help, it didn't matter who they were — a friend of mine or one of my siblings, a friend of hers or sometimes even a stranger — my mom would help if she could. She would open her home to those who needed a place to say. They were always welcomed and we always made do. If someone was alone for a holiday dinner or needed a place to stay, you were welcome at our house. Maybe you needed help moving, my mom would be one of the first to offer help. That rings true even to this day.

Her need to help comes from the love she has for others and it's all because she is grateful for what she has.

In the Bible, wisdom is often referenced as a person and referred to as her. Proverbs tells us, "Don’t neglect your mother’s teaching." Oh, how true that rings.

Thalen Zimmerman of Alexandria joined the Echo Press team as a full-time reporter in Aug. 2021, after graduating from Bemidji State University with a bachelor of science degree in mass communication in May of 2021.
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