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An Attitude of GratitudeNovember 27, 2014
This week Americans celebrate Thanksgiving, historically a time when the indigenous people generously fed the hungry pilgrims wild turkey and other native foods. I'm happy to say, through the generosity of a local church here in Aitutaki, a traditional American Thanksgiving is being offered to North Americans who live here. I am contributing two boxes of Dan's precious stash of Kraft Dinner, so very American.
Thankfulness is one virtue we can never have too much of. A Quaker prayer for Thanksgiving says: "As we worship, let us hold each other in prayer and thanksgiving, and let our hymns of praise resound across the world."
Thankfulness is an attitude of gratitude, which literally has the power to uplift our souls. I recall years ago during my routine of reverence, praying about a serious problem. When I stood up from my prayer chair to get on about my day, I realized my stomach was doing flip flops, and I was still deeply anxious. I hadn't been able to quiet my mind enough to meditate and listen for a Divine answer. I felt both helpless and hopeless about a workable solution to the problem, not yet having reached a state of faith that could "move mountains". I went out on the deck and leaned on the railing, wondering, "What virtue do I need to quell this anxiety?" What came to me strongly was gratitude. So, I started thinking on all the things in my life for which I am thankful -- the beauty around me, my loving marriage, my treasured friendships, my son's new job, the food on our table, the ability to work and serve, the creativity to write, my health -- the list grew longer and longer. Within a few minutes, my heart was at peace. I felt cheerful and trusting that an answer would come.
Since then, in Virtues workshops, we have done an experiment on Gratitude. Asking people to list things they worry about on the left, and things they are thankful for on the right, they then stand, and taking turns with a partner, muscle test each other by putting an arm out, which the other person then tries firmly to pull down. When focused on the list of worries, their arm cannot stay up. It is easily brought down. When taking a deep breath and concentrating on the things for which they are grateful, their arm remains strong and straight.
Gratitude is constant thankfulness for life as it unfolds, including the lessons that come from the hard times. It is expressing appreciation in prayer and also to the people in our lives. We consciously count our blessings every day. When it comes to relationships, if a person has nine good qualities and one bad, we concentrate on the nine. If they have one good quality and nine we consider bad, we concentrate on the one and detach as best we can from the others, while setting boundaries for our own well-being.
Not only is gratitude a key to healing anxiety, stress, or depression, it is a magnet for our joy. Whenever we begin and end the day with an attitude of gratitude, we are appreciating the gifts God has given us. As Psalm 118:24 says: "This is the day that the Lord hath made; let us rejoice and be glad in it."