Happy World Gratitude Day!
Count your blessings. Thank someone. Pay it forward.
I couldn’t have imagined when I wrote Grateful: The Subversive Practice of Giving Thanks that what I learned researching a book would help me get through a global pandemic! During the last eighteen months, when I felt the most despair and the deepest pain of isolation, I remembered my own words and took them to heart:
Gratitude is resilience of sorts, the defiance of kindness in the face of anger, of connection in the face of division, and of hope in the face of fear. . . Gratitude empowers us. It makes joy and love possible. It rearranges the way we see and experience what is all around us. Gratitude makes all things new. It transforms how we understand what is broken and gives us the ability to act more joyfully and with hope. That is why gratitude is central to all the world’s religions. As a practice, it embodies the wisdom of humanity’s greatest spiritual teachers: the love of neighbor. Gratitude takes us from abstract belief to living compassion in the world. Gratitude is strongest, clearest, most robust, and radical when things are really hard. Really hard. All-is-lost hard.
Gratefulness isn’t easy and isn’t all hearts-and-flowers. It can be tough in tough times. But a dogged commitment to the giftedness of life can deepen our spiritual capacity to make it through circumstances that threaten to overwhelm us.
Being grateful didn’t end the pandemic; it wasn’t an escape hatch. Rather, it lowered my fear - and has enabled me to get through it, especially on the worst days.
You may need to be reminded of that today. Someone you know might benefit from a kind word of appreciation or the encouragement of “thank you.” And so, take time to count your blessings, thank someone, and pay it forward on this World Gratitude Day. Be part of a global tribe of gratefulness.
In spring 2020, Anne Lamott and I got together online and talked about gratitude (as part of a larger project for FaithLead). You can find two free audio excerpts of that conversation - “Spiritual WD-40” and “It’s Easy to Have Gratitude When You Get Want You Want” - by clicking HERE.
THANK YOU for being part of The Cottage. Your presence, comments, likes, shares, and financial support have meant a great deal to me in the last year. I’m very grateful.
When you are grateful, you are not fearful, and when you are not fearful, you are not violent. When you are grateful, you act out of a sense of enough and not out of a sense of scarcity, and you are willing to share. If you are grateful, you are enjoying the differences between people and respectful to all people. The grateful world is a world of joyful people. Grateful people are joyful people. A grateful world is a happy world.
— Br. David Steindl-Rast
I used to envy the simply grateful,
who, without needing
separation or loss,
would lift their heads
from their busy supper or book
and revel in the steam from a teacup
winding its slow way
to nothingness in the air,
or just the teacup
catching the window’s tiny
parallelogram of light.
— Sally Bliumis-Dunn
Let us rise up and be thankful,
For if we didn’t learn a lot today,
At least we learned a little,
And if we didn’t learn a little,
At least we didn’t get sick,
And if we got sick,
At least we didn’t die;
So, let us all be thankful!
— The Buddha (attributed)
Gratitude calls us to sit together, to imagine the world as a table of hospitality. To feed one another. To feast, to dance in the streets. To know and celebrate abundance.
— Diana Butler Bass
i thank You God for most this amazing
day: for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes
— e.e. cummings
Like other forms of practice, gratefulness makes us more resilient and flexible, and also offers a way to frame and learn from everything that unfolds in our lives.
— Kristi Nelson
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Not only for your thoughtful and inspiring work on gratitude, but your continued voice of love and inclusion and justice. I often struggle to make sense of a God of Love — that I believe in with my entire heart — and the “God” that animates so many to act against Love. Your work reminds me of important faith lessons that can get lost in a zeitgeist of cruelty and greed and hate.
I want to tell you about the project of which this note is a part. I turn 50 on October 1st. During the countdown to my birthday, I am writing 100 thank you notes/messages in 100 days. (I have been working on it for a while now and it has already been a grand love experiment.) When I think about what I can do in these crazy times — my boat is so small and the sea is so big — reaching out to those whose life’s work makes the world better makes sense to me. Gratitude begets love begets a better world.
A few quick thoughts on how I came to this project. I started focusing on gratitude in the summer of 2017. I was knee deep working on a political campaign and needed to breathe. I had completed my PH.D. in 2003 studying the existential concept of wide-awakeness. I found the concepts of wide-awareness and gratitude kept converging in interesting ways. I needed to know more. I started a daily gratitude practice and began an investigation. Today, many years, and more than 20 gratitude-focused interviews with everyone from yogis, to professors, to a Colonel in the United States Air Force, and teaching a writing class focused on gratitude in a men’s Federal prison, to this 100 in 100 Days Project, I am constructing what can be loosely understood as a grounded theory of gratitude.
Thank you again, Diana. Thank you for kindness, wisdom, and leadership. From church history, to building religious community, to spiritual revolution, your scholarship informs all of us who seek to understand. On National Gratitude Day, thank you specifically for your work on gratitude. May you and your family be surrounded in the same light and love you share with the world in your work.
I am grateful, Diana, for the ways in which you share your feelings and insights.