Thanksgiving 2022 is now a memory but the holiday always sends me into a contemplative reverie about the spirituality of gratitude. Last weekend, I was especially enraptured when I happened to see a magnificent sunset that graced our neighborhood. As I snapped a few photos, a young man walking up the street asked me how often we had such stunning displays. I was so grateful to share this flash in the sky that I thanked him for noticing it with me. He just smiled and moved on.
I was once criticized for saying “thank you” too much. “You already said that five times!” the annoyed person blurted out. Stunned, I had no quick retort and was thus shamed into silence. Underneath, I was mad, really mad. What was so wrong with saying “thank you?” The anger seethed and simmered for a long time. I started to carefully monitor my speech patterns only to realize how many times I did indeed say “thank you,” after every phone chat, encounter, store purchase, and restaurant meal. I frequently thanked my co-workers, friends, and even my little ones when they behaved. Then I asked myself: Are these words just fillers? Do I sincerely mean them? Am I truly a grateful person?
Admittedly, expressing thanks and living in gratitude may not necessarily be connected. Saying “thank you” is simply good manners, a positive habit we learn from well-meaning parents and guardians. Along with “please,” and “excuse me,” these words become a routine part of our repartee. Perhaps you are like me, raised by a mother who required writing thank you notes immediately after birthdays and Christmas, even if we didn’t like the gift received. Maybe we weren’t always sincerely grateful but learning to act “as if” did indeed cultivate a sense of gratitude.
I find it serendipitous that Thanksgiving and Advent often coincide, a few days apart, every year. We set aside a national day to give thanks, and then we enter into the four weeks of waiting and preparing for Christmas, which is also a time full of thanks for gifts, invitations to dinner, warm expressions of love, joy, and peace. A good friend of mine, Fr. Dave Denny, suggests that we spend time “thanksventing” (read his lovely reflection: https://sandandsky.org/advent-starlight-stillness/ ). What a great idea for the whole Advent season! Try counting how many times you said, felt, or heard someone express gratitude in a day. Even children can become aware of how many times we are grateful rather than resentful, a worthwhile practice.
In conclusion then, I say a huge THANK YOU for your presence, for caring enough to read this, and for any small effort to “thanks-vent.” Do everyone a favor and pass the message this Advent Season!
2 thoughts on “Growing in Gratitude”
Thank you for this Donna! Learning to live in gratitude softens the heart and enlivens the soul!! Love this reflection!!!
This was a wonderful read Donna! As you well know I’m always grateful for your friendship, your wisdom, your spirituality. Thank you for being graceful enough to encourage us to share it forward. I am sending it out to so many people at Saint John Vianney. Thank you thank you thank you! Love you