More Than Thank You

Developing Gratitude

Alarm ClockWe all have a routine. Aside from the small stuff like making your bed, eating your breakfast and brushing your teeth, what do you do in the morning? Although our morning routines are all a little different, we probably established a rather similar routine early in our lives. Wouldn’t it be nice if part of that routine included gratitude?

The problem is, finding time to feel gratitude is a challenging thing. Most of us don’t set out a practice or make a routine of feeling grateful. And even if we do, we’re most likely to feel grateful for things like the fact that we slept well the night before, that it’s going to be a nice sunny day, or the fact that we’ve got over that nasty cold.

It’s good to think that way—to think of all the things we’re grateful FOR. But wouldn’t it be great if we used that time to think of the people TO WHOM we are grateful. Who could that be? Maybe the person making breakfast for you—he does it every day, and it’s always good. (Well, some days it isn’t…but still, how nice of him to do that for you!) Maybe you’re going to have to make your own breakfast—but wasn’t it nice of that woman in the store to tell you that you’d dropped your purse. You said, “thank you” at the time, but now take a moment to think about her and feel gratitude to her.

Spending just a few extra minutes in our morning routines to think about the people who have done lovely things for us, and to whom we’re grateful, can infuse an abundance of gratefulness into our heart.

In his book “The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming”, Henri Nouwen writes: “Gratitude as a discipline involves a conscious choice. I can choose to be grateful even when my emotions and feelings are steep and hurt and resentful. It is amazing how many occasions present themselves in which I can choose gratitude instead of a complaint. I can choose to be grateful when I am criticized, even when my heart responds in bitterness….I can choose to listen to the voices that forgive and to look at the faces that smile, even while I still hear words of revenge and see grimaces of hatred.”

We all of us have difficult patches in our lives; things don’t work out the way we’d hoped; we’re unemployed; or having to work two jobs just to make ends meet. And that’s hard. What have you got to be grateful for? Maybe not much, but you always have people to whom you are grateful, especially for the little things that make a hard life difficult. Take time, each morning, to reflect on those who have helped along the way, and the gratitude you feel toward them will remind you to do something nice for them. And that feeling of gratefulness will spread.

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