“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
“At times, our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.” – Albert Schweitzer
I feel very blessed to have a circle of friends with whom I share my thankfulness daily. Every morning, we text each other with three things that filled us with gratitude the prior day. As we share things silly and profound, insightful and sacred, we feel deeply grateful. What I have been noticing since we started this practice is that I’m more alert to coincidence than I would normally have been.
In one such moment of coincidence, I happened upon a TED Talk titled, “Want to be happy? Be grateful.” In it, Brother David Steindl-Rast, a Catholic Benedictine monk, opened with the idea that the one thing all humans have in common is that each of us wants to be happy. Happiness, he suggests, is born from gratitude.
How we envision happiness differs from person to person. He says that we would expect if we are happy, we would naturally feel grateful. But he asks us to rethink that idea. To be truly happy, we need to be grateful first.
On his website, Gratefulness.org, Brother David shares that grateful living is a way of life which asks us to notice all that is already present and abundant – from the tiniest things of beauty to the grandest of our blessings – and in so doing, to take nothing for granted.
We can learn to focus our attention and acknowledge that life is a gift. Even in the most challenging times, living gratefully makes us aware of, and open to, the opportunities that are always available; opportunities to learn and grow and extend ourselves with care and compassion to others.
Small, grateful acts every day can uplift us, make a difference for others, and help change the world. We hold the key to our own happiness by living gratefully moment to moment.
It may be difficult for our personalities to be grateful for everything in our experience, such as violence, war, or devastating “acts of God.” How can we feel grateful for the loss of a loved one? Brother David didn’t say to be grateful in everything, but to be grateful in every given moment. And within each moment an opportunity will present itself from which we can learn and grow. Grateful living is based in, and reinforces, values such as respect, responsibility, and generosity.
As this awareness of living in gratitude grows and deepens, we will gradually realize we are living with a greater sense of freedom and personal empowerment. Abundance seems more natural and new opportunities present themselves. We discover new and wonderful things about ourselves and develop a deeper appreciation for our own special gifts. We become aware that we are what we were intended to be – vessels of the Holy Spirit, sharing God’s love with each other and with all of God’s creation.
May you have a blessed and happy holiday season.