SPIRITUALLY SPEAKING COLUMN, EDEN PRAIRIE NEWS, NOVEMBER 2018
The Power of Gratitude
“What’s the magic word?” our mother would ask whenever my sisters or I were clamoring for something or other. It was important to say “please” when making a request, and equally important to say “thank you.”
It’s Thanksgiving time, our national tribute to gratitude. It’s a time that beyond boundaries of culture, religious expression and geographical location we all stand together in solidarity as we give thanks. Thanks for family, for friends, for this country and its freedoms. Thanks for the turkey and stuffing. Or the lasagna. Or the ham. Or the masala.
The spiritual writer and mystic David Stendl-Rast asserts that gratitude is the doorway to the divine. To be grateful is to shift our focus from distress or scarcity to where life is full and rich. It moves us out of negativity into a place of appreciation. For many of us, it involves turning our hearts and minds to the God of our understanding.
I have friends who are doing a practice of acknowledging one thing they are grateful for each day in this month of November. I know others who are using a gratitude journal, and every day jotting down something that strikes them as noteworthy, no matter how small.
Both those practices remind me that gratitude is not just random moments of saying “thanks,” but almost an art form. It’s an outlook, a way of viewing the world with openness to seeing the good and acknowledging its source.
What am I thankful for this week?
My amazing spouse and my remarkable children, two aging cats and a neurotic dog. Without them, my inner circle would not be so rich.
Our comfortable home, with its full cupboards and running water, which shelters us from steamy summers and frosty Minnesota winters.
My restored health after a distressing concussion and years of recuperation.
My family and friends, particularly my Interfaith Circle companions, who every year give months of their lives to bring our community together in understanding and peace.
My faith community, in which I get to love, and laugh, and draw closer to the divine life.
My state and nation, where no matter how fractious it gets, there’s hope that, eventually, we’ll find a path to common ground.
Our beautiful planet, with all its natural wonders and glory, and the increasing numbers of people awakening to its care.
Gratitude also helps me to look beyond the “easy to be grateful for” items. When I’m distressed about social issues such as racism, homophobia, and more, it pushes me to be grateful for the amazing allies in the battle for justice, and for the privilege of participating myself in working for change.
Even when things are bleak, there’s something to grab onto. Even if that’s something I take for granted, such as my heart beating without my instruction, or each breath that I draw automatically.
At our house, we often start Thanksgiving dinner by naming something for which we are each grateful. As we do, I’ll once again be reminded of the generosity of so many people I know and love, and of the God who I have come to believe is source of all.