Gratitude: To My Spiritual Family
Ponderings of the Spiritual Life Director
“Gratitude is a word that I cherish. Gratitude is what defines the happiness and humanity of the human being.”
― Elie Wiesel
“Let gratitude be the pillow upon which you kneel to say your nightly prayer. And let faith be the bridge you build to overcome evil and welcome good.”
— Maya Angelou
Practicing gratitude has truly been one of the most impactful exercises towards deepening my spirituality and uplifting my mood to one of contentment. Nevertheless, in the hustle and bustle of life, it’s easy to forget to take a couple minutes to be thankful and nourish our spirits. November is a good time to bring us back to this practice and get us in the daily habit of it- hopefully for the rest of the year, too! We can write in a journal, make quick notes and drop them in a “thankfulness” jar, or find a daily gratitude meditation on a smartphone app. But whatever habit we choose, we need to remember to keep it fresh. We should challenge ourselves to find something new each day for which we are thankful. We should challenge ourselves to find something to be thankful for even when- or especially when- things are rough and we have to work extra hard to find that thing to which we can extend gratitude.
And we should watch ourselves- what is it that we are thankful for? If we express more gratitude towards things than people, then we need to pause for some self-examination. Our relationships and connections with others are the greatest determinant of our happiness. Extend that further to our church community and you can see that what will ultimately determine the strength and the growth of our community can be found in our relationships.
How do we treat each other? How do we know each other? How do we love each other? Are we thankful for what each member has to contribute or do we moan and groan when it’s not our way? Do we tell one another we are thankful or do we complain to one another? Do we really take the time to understand one another so that we can find the joy in the uniqueness of the other?
Let’s start a practice of gratitude at UUCL. And, let’s make it last! Make it a point to search for at least one thing each week that someone has done that you are thankful for and express your gratitude to that person. Challenge yourself to find something to be grateful for even when you’re feeling grumpy or displeased about something. Tell someone how much you appreciate them or perhaps even write them a letter! Yes, what would it look like if we wrote each other letters (even short notes) of gratitude on a regular basis? (Thank you, Keyno!)
Here’s a few things that I’ve thought of just to get me started (there is so much more to come):
My great big, never-ending gratitude: I am thankful for the women at UUCL (some still with us, some moved on, some have passed)- Melissa, Deirdre, Glenda, Joyce, Blenda, Judi, Jane, Mary, Rafi, Theresa, Cynthia, Janet, Ishiuan, Rev. Bonnie, Rev. Marni- who guided me through the hardest years of my life with their stories of strength and offerings of hope. Sometimes the biggest gifts are the simplest of things.
I am thankful that Richard was so inspired to make our grounds beautiful.
I am thankful that John and John keep doing the yard work.
I am thankful that Dorothy and Ken have been planning the service auction- even when they were still in Ohio.
I am thankful that Arland came to church last Sunday when I know it’s very difficult for him just to get in the car.
I am thankful for the sound of growth in our sanctuary- children!
I am thankful that Barb and Don, after all these years of not seeing eye-to-eye with me, still love and support me and continue to give so much to the church.
This is by no means an exhaustive list. I am thankful for every one of you and the gifts you bring and I will keep the gratitude coming.
What are you thankful for? How can we express gratitude to each other? I’d love to know, so please share!