We all know them: the people whose life is radiant with gratitude. They shine with blessing, and that blessing is shed on the person who checks out their groceries, or offers to refill their water glass in a restaurant, or delivers their mail, or picks up their trash. Folks tend to smile more often around them. Folks tend to be calmer, more generous, more helpful.
Most of us also know one or two persons who would not be capable of saying, ‘Thanks’ if the entire world were standing by 24/7 ready to wait on their every whim. Personally, I am always a little off-balance in their company, a little uncomfortable, and (much as I hate to admit it) a lot resentful. Which tells you how far I need to grow in order to be one of the folks in the first category.
With the holidays approaching and family dynamics just waiting to catch us off-guard, in a time of tension and trial (and terrorism), it can be worth remembering that gratitude is a practice and that a practice need to be, well, practiced. So a quick reminder to myself (and, if it applies, to you) about what I/we are practicing.
Thankfulness is the practice of noticing beauty in even the most unexpected places (like your neighbor’s yard full of 27 blow up winter ornaments no two of which form a theme beyond ‘huge’). Your neighbor is trying to create beauty and even though you would prefer a single evergreen covered in tiny white lights, thankfulness is the practice of accepting that beauty is in the eye of the beholder…and isn’t that good when you think about how many of us are kind of funny looking in some way?
Gratitude is the practice of noticing abundance in the smallest, simplest, most ordinary of events or objects or gestures (like, for instance, having air to breathe all day, every day). It is noticing that the kind young man with Down Syndrome who just packed your groceries gave you the biggest smile in the world (and it wouldn’t hurt to smile back and say, ‘Thank you.’) It is noticing that the person next door shoveled their front walk…and yours, too. It is noticing that someone actually stopped and let you out of the side street – and it wasn’t an accident, they did it deliberately.
Gratitude is the practice of noticing hope, and generosity, and happiness, and kindness. It is paying attention and noticing – and naming, even if only in your own head – that the world is a place of benevolence and compassion and cooperation way way way more than it is a place of fear and violence and prejudice and distrust. And it is about taking the time to allow thankfulness to well up inside and spill over into the lives around you.
For those of my readers in the United States, tomorrow is the day we celebrate our national day of Thanksgiving. It might be a good day to commit to the practice of writing (or speaking) our thanks for both profound blessings and simple ones, for the serious and the silly. Because people who practice gratitude bring grace to everyone around them and this world can always use more grace, more love, more tenderness, more hope, more laughter, more generosity.
And so this day and forever more
may you be enfolded in the nine gifts of gratitude:
the blessing of being blessing,
the joy of being joyous,
the kindness of being kind,
the love of loving.
the wisdom of being wise,
the hope of hoping,
the compassion of being compassionate,
the generosity of being generous,
the peace of being peaceful.
Nine gifts to create
shalom within and without.
Text © 2015, Andrea La Sonde Anastos
Photos © 2015, 2014 Immram Chara, LLC
NOTE 1: My heartfelt gratitude to those who have gone to my Facebook page (Immram Chara) and liked the whole page. If you haven’t yet, I would be so grateful if you did.
NOTE 2: If you need some note cards for this time – to send messages of hope – I have created a set of six angels which is available in the Etsy shop. They also work as holiday cards and I have a set of Madonnas, as well, if you are thinking ahead to the holidays.