Gratitude – it is a life-giving gift. It is the best gift we have to give. It is the best gift we can receive.
When you are grateful, you are not fearful. When you are grateful, you are connected to sufficiency. You are enough. The moment is enough. The person you appreciate is enough.
When you are grateful, you are generous. When you are grateful, you share more, you give more, you love more.
When you receive someone’s thanksgiving – when that someone expresses to you a thanks for giving, a thanks for being who you are – your heart overflows. You are filled with love and have more love to give. Generosity ensues – this is a wonderful circle.
Gratitude is truly a gift that keeps giving.
I have been buying my Christmas gifts this weekend. I had already purchased the big presents that are number one on my children’s wish lists at the beginning of the month – but now I have some smaller gifts to go. And yesterday, the task of it all started to feel exhausting.
I didn’t feel grateful – I felt overwhelmed, financially and organizationally. Every year I say I’m going to track the different make up items that each daughter wants. And then, I don’t. The Sephora boxes arrive and I have no idea which kid requested which item and I don’t want to go back and reconcile the list. It’s my own pity party – and I attend with bells on.
In my practice of grateful living, I’ve learned to release the “I should be grateful” moment. If you’re not grateful, you’re not grateful. To feel awful that you’re not grateful when you’re having a negative emotional response is a waste of your energy. You life force is better directed to a place where you can allow for negativity and overwhelm and meet the moment with a wider perspective.
So I stopped buying gifts for a few minutes. I just….stopped.
I walked the dogs around the field and I thought about one of teachings of Brother David Steindl-Rast, a 97-year-old author, scholar and Benedictine Monk who introduced me to the idea of grateful living. Br. Steindl-Rast teaches that celebration is the core of gratitude. And by celebration he means, “an act of heightened and focused intellectual and emotional appreciation.”
He writes that gratitude is the “celebration of love” – what a beautiful and true idea. And I have to admit, one that is hard to live into every single day.
When I’m not feeling grateful, I fear I have failed to honor and respect love with the celebration it deserves.
Being the beloved scholar on gratitude that he is, Br. Steindl-Rast speaks to this exact failing when he writes:
“We have thousands of opportunities every day to be grateful: for having good weather, to have slept well last night, to be able to get up, to be healthy, to have enough to eat. … There's opportunity upon opportunity to be grateful; that's what life is.”
There is no failing gratitude – there is only the opportunity to find it. It is always present. Somewhere. It doesn’t have to be in the moment your blow past your gift-giving budget – instead it can be in the moment you remember that you have a great job and you can make the money you need to give the gifts you want to give. You don’t have to celebrate everything – and, with a grateful perspective, there is always something to celebrate.
My walk was an opportunity to ask an important question:
What do I celebrate about each of my children?
When I return to my computer, I am in a much better spot. I have thought about Ryan’s loyalty, her conscientiousness, her caring nature, her singing voice, her ability to take responsibility for her life. I have thought about Mimi’s innate confidence, her empathy and kindness towards others, her appreciation for beauty, her sense of style. I have thought about Myles and his love for our dogs, his commitment to basketball, his sense of humor, his devotion to veggie fried rice and his sensitivity to the people and world around him.
My reset meant that I got set with an intentional thankfulness for these people – and then I approached the task at hand with a lot more generosity than I was feeling earlier. I bought the things, I made a list from the receipts that had been emailed to me to organize myself and I actually paused to envision the joy on the faces of those teenagers when they unwrap their gifts – which got me excited about wrapping gifts.
Life is a gift – and the way that we receive it fully is being open to the fullness of it.
Gift-giving is a whole thing – it’s a positive thing, it’s an overwhelming thing, it’s a vulnerable thing, it’s an investment thing, it’s a memory-making thing, it’s a spectacular – full and real thing…
…and the best thing about it is the gratitude that we feel in the giving and in the receiving of gifts that remind us – we are alive and here to celebrate love.
DAY 17 Reflection Questions
*If you are giving gifts at Christmas this year, think about the people receiving your gifts. Connect with a deep appreciation for each one of these people – when you purchase and then, give your gift, let it be a celebration of love. Release the need for the gift to be received in a particular way. Your gift recipient will feel your generosity and that is the ultimate gift.
*Give yourself the gift of time when you need it this week. Stop. When things are overwhelming or negative…just stop. Gratitude is there for you – but it’s hard to see it when you’re moving fast. Take a minute or two or 45 and remember your life is one opportunity after another to practice grateful living.