A couple weeks ago I had heard the Aurora was supposed to be especially active, so I went out on my deck to catch a glimpse of it. Instead, I was treated to a show of stars— myriads of them, so bright! I didn’t see what I had hoped to see, but I was treated to something also amazing—a vast array of stars, an unexpected gift. It brought to mind the importance of gratitude for little things.
November, which brings Thanksgiving Day to mind, would seem to be a logical month to talk about gratitude, so why am I writing about this in May? I believe that being thankful is a grace-filled way of living each day of our lives. Day-to-day life is often filled with hardships and difficulties, so we need to cultivate ways to keep our spirits hope-filled and joyful. An attitude of gratitude can help to focus our attention on the ways we are gifted and blessed each day. Often it’s in little ways and it comes unexpectedly.
This made me reflect on the little surprises, totally unexpected, that pop into our lives at times when our spirits need a sign of hope, of joy. During this Easter season and amid the warming air of spring little surprises seem to be more profuse. They are everywhere! Maybe it’s because our spirits need these signs of hope and joy in a world that often seems out of touch with goodness, gratitude, and reverence for God’s creation.
A few years ago I started a gratitude journal. Each night I would list five things I was thankful for that day. Of course, there was an abundance of reasons to be grateful, but I wanted to list something different each day and I wanted to concentrate on the special things. Often I noted the many ways I saw beauty or wonder in nature. Sometimes it was a meaningful conversation with a friend. At times I wrote about things I take for granted, such as hot water or electricity, but remembering the travel I have done in some third world countries I know that others do not take these things for granted. One day, after I had made an especially good dessert I was thankful for rhubarb.
I stopped writing in this journal but I think it’s time now to return to it because each night I wrote in my journal I was focused on all that I had experienced that day for which I was grateful. I went to bed each night with a heart filled with gratitude. It made me so much more conscious of being thankful.
In my Catholic faith tradition we celebrate thanksgiving together every Sunday--it’s called Eucharist, the Greek word for thanksgiving--since it is so important for us to give thanks to God, the giver of all our good gifts. Meister Eckhart, a German theologian and mystic, wrote: “If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough.” Quite a statement about gratitude!
Mothers Day is coming soon. Since my own mother passed away seventeen years ago I will be remembering her that day, remembering her with gratitude and I will be sure to write in my gratitude journal that night. Maybe I should ask her help in getting me started again with this journal, so I can be more focused on being thankful.
Sr. Marie Lucek is the Pastoral Associate at the Cathedral of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.