Gratitude is a difficult thing in our world today. We are surrounded by the continual negative messages droning in our ears about how everything is so evil. Rising rates in murders. Dictatorial demands of unjust laws and governments. Car wrecks on the freeways. Constant droning on how imperfect we are convincing us to change not only who we are, but the bodies we live inside.
It is amazing that, as a human species, we have the will to continue to live. And it is more amazing that we are still here if everything about us and our environment is so wrong.
But for the gift of gratitude, we could not survive.
Deep inside every bad event, there is a silver lining. For every painful event, there is an opportunity for spiritual growth. And for every loss, there is a chance to reap immeasurable amounts of joy.
It is all in how we look at it.
And in what we firmly plant the foundation of our beliefs.
It isn’t something trite…
The concept of gratitude isn’t something trite. It isn’t something trivial or banal. Nor is it mundane.
It comes from something that gets hidden deep down inside of us. The feeling of overwhelm and drudgery crowds from our memory the very need to be grateful.
Trite sayings to a person who hates their job, like, “Just be grateful you have a job!” isn’t what I am talking about.
Neither is the common phrase of, “Just think of three things every morning that you are grateful for, like your family and friends”.
It goes much deeper than that…
Saying something and believing it are two different things. It comes from your core values. Your mostly deeply held beliefs.
I struggle daily with gratitude. Not because I am ungrateful, but it is often difficult to see the very things that are right before my eyes. Those things that I take of advantage of every day. Especially when those beautiful people or vents are annoying the daylights out of me.
Gratitude comes when we see something that appears to be commonplace in our lives. Electricity, water, food, income, family, friends, even enemies, and opportunities for learning another lesson of humility.
Life gives us ample chances to be grateful for the very life we have been given.
But the spirit of gratitude itself is a gift. The ability to hold the very things we hold dear is a gift. And the chance to lose what we take advantage of is even itself a gift.
All these things are given to us to grow. When they are taken from us, they are removed to help us see their value. And to grow in appreciation for that which we not only lost, but what we still have.
When it is gone…
Running hot water, or water from a spigot is itself something we are aware of, but until it is gone, we don’t appreciate its value. The gift of sight and health, our best friend, the pet we hold dear, the bed we have to sleep on, and the food that nourishes our bodies.
Even being grateful for our bodies that are created so beautifully from birth. That creation which fully encompasses our soul and outwardly expresses that perfection we have within us.
Perhaps we need to take a harder look around us and see the value is everything within our reach. Here in the comfortable position we live in the Western world, we take full advantage of the roof over our heads and the stores that provide our goods.
But, overnight, all that can change. It has for hundreds of thousands of people during the pandemic an hurricanes that slammed into the state of Florida.
And it can happen to any one of us…
We are good at being armchair quarterbacks, judging those less fortunate than ourselves. But should those same events come to our door, how grateful will we be in those difficult times? Will we, then, relate those those we deemed less fortunate than ourselves?
My family lost everything at one point in our lives after my spouse died. One of our moves from the house we lost to an apartment in an unsavory area proved challenging. Yet, in spite of the water that burst through our second floor, and the gunfire from the neighboring communities, we had a roof over our heads. And food in our cupboards.
My little family was kept safe through it all.
For that I began to realize the gratitude I had for a God Who cared so much. For in losing it all, I gained everything.
Think about it…
And think deeply.
What are you grateful for today? Truly grateful? So much that if it were taken from you, could you still see something to be grateful for in that loss?
That is where the rubber really meets the road.
So when you are told to think of something for which you are grateful, think about what you have gained from your losses. About the experiences, people, ideas, things that you are given of which you have ignored value.
It is in these things that we should be grateful.
The spirit of gratitude is a virtue. It is both natural (our choice) and supernatural (the ability to see outside ourselves to the bigger picture by the Grace from God).
Begin today to practice true gratitude. Then watch it not only blossom within you, but become infectious to those around you. By practicing real gratitude, you become a magnet to the virtue of gratitude.
And begin to pray for that gift to be given to those who lack the Grace. Let them see what is inside you. Allow it to shine through you.
Give them the reason to so want what you have that they beg for the understanding on how to be grateful themselves.
Watch that flame of gratitude begin to light up the community around you.
No matter how small the flame, it can become a quenching fire, lighting the world, and suppressing the darkness that threatens to extinguish the Joy that lives deep in the heart of every individual.
May the blessings of this new journey envelope you and surround your efforts.