Gratitude and Joy

"In the deepest night of trouble and sorrow God gives us so much to be thankful for that we need never cease on singing."
Samuel T. Coleridge

If you were to endure two days without water, and someone gave you water to drink, you would be very grateful. You would experience joy at the relief of your thirst.  Fortunately, for most of us, we have enough water to drink, food to eat, and fuel to keep us warm. Living in a society where our needs are well met, we may not often experience the craving for basic sustenance. We may also miss the experience of profound gratitude of those whose unmet needs become fulfilled.

We have the same need for food and water as the hungry and thirsty person, but since we are rarely denied those basics, we may take them for granted. Living a life of relative luxury we may grow dulled to the tremendous gifts we are granted every day. When what we have is threatened, we may cherish it more. The gift of danger is the joy of safety realized. The gift of loss is thankfulness for what we’ve had. The world may seem a little less secure this year for those of us who have been insulated from threat until now, but we have an opportunity to find deeper gratefulness and more profound joy in our thanksgiving.

Take time this week, maybe every week, to consider the good in your life. What are you grateful for that perhaps you have taken for granted? Contemplate these things quietly one after another. You might also write them down and refer to them now and then.

As you eat your food, consider your good fortune to have it. As you take a sip of water, give thanks that it is so plentiful in your life. As you greet your loved ones, appreciate the gift of their health and safety. As you turn on a light, cook your food, drive your car, or take a bath, consider how fortunate you are to have those luxuries in your life.

Think about the lives of those who have none of what you enjoy. Open your heart. Be grateful for your material comfort, and consider how you might share your treasure.

A Thanksgiving Prayer

In the spirit of humility we give thanks for all that is.
We thank the great spiritual beings who have shared their wisdom.
We thank our ancestors who brought us to where we are now.
We are grateful for the opportunity to walk this planet,
to breathe the air,
to taste the food,
to experience sensations of a human body/mind,
to share in this wonder that is life.
We are grateful for the natural world that supports us,
for the community of humankind that enables us to do many wonderous things.
We are grateful that we are conscious,
that as intelligent beings we can reflect upon the many gifts we have been given.

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© 2002 Tom Barrett