LIVING WITH GRATITUDE
By Sister Brenda
Walsh, OP, Racine Dominican
Over a decade ago, Robert Muller,
former Assistant to the United Nations Secretary General shared his
dream for the new millennium:
"I dream that on January 1, 2000, the
whole world will stand still in prayer, awe and gratitude to God for
the beautiful earth and for the miracle of human life." He went on
to express hope that the young and old, rich and poor, Black and
White, people from all beliefs and cultures would join hands, minds
and hearts in one great celebration of life, that would be a
celebration of gratitude and hope on a global scale. Cicero once
said: "Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtue. It is the
parent of all the other virtues."
It is fitting to think deeply about
gratitude as the season of Thanksgiving approaches. As I think of
the people I have met that lived with gratitude and hope, several
names and faces come to my mind.
One is a 100 year old woman I met some
time ago in Kentucky. She lived in a one room cottage with a dirt
floor and walked a mile to the store to get needed supplies. When I
visited her she started to name her blessings one by one - a
beautiful sunrise, the strength of the mountains, her reasonably
good health, a roof over head and a long life. She saw everything as
a gift from God and she never dwelt on her limited resources. Before
I left, she asked her son to pick up his guitar and sing a song of
thanksgiving. The glow on the woman’s face was more powerful than
any sermon I have ever heard. Living with gratitude and hope was a
way of life for her.
I could think of many more examples of
what it means to live with gratitude and hope. It is common in many
cultures, but often it is forgotten in our western world. Living
with gratitude for even one day can make a difference. If we are
honest with ourselves, no matter how depressed or disappointed one
may be, most have more priceless blessings to be grateful for than
we care to acknowledge. All of can count more on the credit side
than the debit side if we put our minds and hearts to the task.
What is a blessing? David Orr, an
environmental studies professor reminds us that "the rhythm of the
Great Heart of God has been drowned out by the cadence of greed and
violence." To count our blessings is to see our problems in the
right proportion. Mark Twain once humorously reminded us that, "I’ve
known many troubles in my lifetime, most of which never happened."
He encourages us to distinguish between what is a disappointment and
what is a tragedy in our lives.
A good place to start recognizing our
blessings is with the count. Soon you will need a larger notebook to
keep track of them. You will discover plenty of reasons to be
grateful. To name just a few:
- The gift of life
in all its forms – human, animal, and plant and
the Divine source of all life, linking all of us
across time, place and culture
- Our own personal
lives, every heartbeat, every breath we breathe,
our dreams, hopes and potential
- The promise of
God’s unfailing love and presence in our lives
in good times and challenging times, God’s
mercy, forgiveness and compassion
- The family and
friends that surround us and guide us.
- The opportunity to
do good and to work for justice and peace in our
What are the benefits of gratitude"
Health practitioners often tell us that
gratitude has a power to heal. We dwell on the blessings and not on
the deficits. It helps us let go of limited thinking and dwell on
the limitless power of God working within us and among us. We can
turn to the source of our blessings each day and find solace and
strength to be a blessing to others.
Thanksgiving means "thanksliving."
Blessings are never just for ourselves alone. They are given to be
shared with all those who cross our path. Living with gratitude
leads to hospitality and peace. It enables us to live with
compassion for those deprived of life’s basic resources, for those
looking for hope and meaning. Along with gratitude there needs to be
a sense of justice, to reshape our social systems and structures
that dehumanize so that no one is denied life or life-sustaining
What are you most grateful for today?
Think about specific way to express and live your gratitude. Happy