November brings a chill to the air, and our nation’s obligatory holiday around gratitude.
Don’t get me wrong, Thanksgiving is a meaningful holiday for our family, and likely for yours. It shines a light on how Native Americans showed hospitality to the “refugee Americans” when Europeans newly arrived. Times were lean, but bounty was shared. For me, Thanksgiving peals back the veneer of daily living to see whether gratitude is a posture I choose to live out of, as a rule. Every moment of every day we each get to choose whether to navigate life with a grasping entitlement or an open-handed gratitude. And it’s easy to forget the latter for the former, even though a life of gratitude is way more fun and fulfilling. It means living in the “gift economy” as writer David Brooks says so well –
“Capitalism encourages us to see human beings as self-interested, utility-maximizing creatures. But people with grateful dispositions are attuned to the gift economy where people are motivated by sympathy as well as self-interest. In the gift economy intention matters.”
Living in the gift economy takes practice. It requires frequent reminders to the self that a gracious God has been open-handed toward us, and we are to be the same for others. It takes being curious to live out scripture’s advice to be thankful in all circumstances. It is attempting to take nothing for granted, to see the gift of this day for ourselves and for our neighbor. I’d like to think this comes naturally for us, but for most of us it doesn’t. For me, I often need to jump-start my gratitude by writing down reasons “if I were to be thankful today”. Better yet, giving myself to an act of service for someone else often awakens my gratitude, and pulls me out of a crabby mood.
Ann Lamott, unpretentious spiritual guru, says it this way –
“Gratitude begins in our hearts and then dovetails into behavior. It almost always makes you willing to be of service, which is where the joy resides. It means that you are willing to stop being such a jerk. When you are aware of all that has been given to you, in your lifetime and the past few days, it is hard not to be humbled, and pleased to give back.”
How is it with you? What helps you to live in gratitude, despite the pain and bad news that comes with this life? And how do you unleash your gratitude to benefit others?
Please respond to this post, for I’d love to know what you think.
I close with a couple more pithy quotes on gratitude that ring true for me these days –
“In the moment you choose gratitude, you cannot in that same moment be filled with hate.” -Fred Craddock
“Thank you, God, for this good life, and forgive us if we do not love it enough. ” -Garrison Keillor
Grateful to be sharing life with you,
Linda Wolgast says
God is so amazing. Reflecting, I have realized that being generous is the most rewarding way to live. And, the more generous we are the more it returns to us ten fold.
Chris Lane says
I hear you. There is a beauty & a freedom as we learn to allow gifts to pass thru us to other causes that relieve suffering & build up the community. We seem to learn this better in the 2nd half of life, for some reason.
Diane Clark says
Some days I read the news and despair over the fact that greed seems to be running rampant in our country today. Then I read stories about how ordinary citizens have done random acts of kindness to help their fellow citizens, and my faith is restored. I want to be one of the latter group.
Chris Lane says
Those benevolent gestures, especially between strangers or toward someone in another culture, seem downright miraculous amid the polarized cynicism of the day. When I witness or read about such moments, I think we do indeed have a mark of the Divine within us.
Thanks for sharing.