‘The trouble with you is that you are never grateful,’ was the heartfelt challenge from parent to child. It made me wonder : Are we grateful? In these dark days of winter and with all the anxieties of the pandemic let us remind ourselves about gratitude.
Gratitude, thankfulness, or appreciation is an acknowledgment of a benefit that one has received or will receive. We express it when we receive help from others: time listening to our concerns.
So – how might we put this into practice? Here are three suggestions :
First, give thanks for the material goodness.
This might mean saying a prayer (aloud or silently) before meals for your food. Our lives depend on the richness of God’s bounty and the host of people who grew, processed, distributed, prepared and served our food.
This goodness is reflected in the wonder and beauty of creation. I remember stepping out of a car in north east Scotland to take a closer look at the most incredible rainbow I have ever seen. It was bursting with vivid colour. In moment like these we can feel deeply connected to the goodness of our earth. Open your eyes and be ready for surprise and delight.
Second, give thanks for your relationships.
All of us are the recipient of many acts of kindnesses. We should continue to express our thanks for the people closest to us, our families and friends, and even our pets. These people and the things we share are a gift from God. Sometimes it is easy to overlook and express the blessings that we share with others, especially when we often are over preoccupied with the imperfections of love and our daily capacity to make mistakes. Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it. This does not mean evading the complexities of living.
Third, we live generously when we express our gratitude.
When did we last say thank you?! Try saying thank you to these people this weekend. Look at the person and express your gratitude to the shop assistant, the postman but especially to your work colleagues.
Thank you notes can become a way of practising gratitude: of putting into words the truth of our belonging to one another. As we write our thanks we can be weaned away from these myth of entitlement and the arrogance and isolation of independence. Think about the small things that have made a difference and express your thanks in a card or note or text !
Gratitude is deeply relational, which is why developing this virtue protects us from a sense of creeping isolation.
Life is the precious gift we receive from the moment of our birth. There may very well be a lot going wrong in our lives. However practising gratitude can help us celebrate the worth of receiving life, love, insight and nurture in us a feeling of deep connectedness? All we need to create a more fulfilling life by seeing what we already have. When we look carefully and acknowledge what we do have, we may surprise ourselves and find more than we expected.
Give thanks for a little and you will find a lot.
First published in the Salisbury Journal 17th December 2020