Gratitude is a turning of our heart towards celebrating the good in our lives. So often, we focus on the negative. What I didn’t get done. What I don’t have. What someone else has that I want. The thought that my life will get better when I have….
We all do this. There is no shame in this kind of thinking. But there is an invitation in the practice of gratitude to turns towards what we do have and find joy present there. Gratitude also inspires us to share more generously with others. When we are focused on what we don’t have it is tempting to close our hands around our resources, thinking they are limited and to be hoarded. When we practice gratitude, we begin to see abundance in our own lives and loosen our grip in order to bless others.
Last night I served a meal at Community Lifeline in Shelton. Community Lifeline provides a hot meal 365 days a year to the community. It is open to anyone. Many of the people who eat are homeless, some were obviously addicted, others were working poor struggling to make ends meet. Some of the guests were talkative and willing to share their life stories. Others didn’t make eye contact and mumbled as they went through the food line.
Almost all of them were extremely grateful.
I wasn’t expecting this. For many of the people eating at Community Lifeline, this is their nightly meal. Day in and day out they gather at Community Lifeline for dinner. While my family says grace before every dinner meal, and we genuinely thank God for the food and family, sometimes we practice this ritual with a sense of routine rather than exuberant thanksgiving. It is what often happens when we do something every day.
What I discovered at Community Lifeline was an overflowing, enthusiastic gratitude for the food and the people providing it. The food was good (I didn’t cook so I can say that honestly) and we were a friendly bunch. But the gratitude was more than that. It was a recognition that warm meals are a privilege, that people came together in order to feed strangers, and that we were all blessed to be together in a warm space on a cold November evening.
Their gratitude was contagious and I am finding myself taking stock of my life this morning and seeing riches where yesterday I saw poverty. When gratitude is saved for only the special or extraordinary we miss the opportunity to see the grace and goodness all around us.
So this holiday season may we give thanks and delight in the wonder of the season.But may we also notice the everyday beauty that surrounds us and remember to offer gratitude for it all.
Grace and peace,