After Hurricane Sandy, a graduate of the Abundance & Prosperity workshop, Will Romero, wrote these words: “I just wanted to say thank you very much. I lost my apartment during the hurricane and the first thing that came to my head was ‘Wow… I’m not really attached to material things.’ So I decided to choose a different attitude, and made a list of the things I am grateful for. Well, I have a lot of things to be grateful for… this is the end of my apartment, and the beginning of another journey. Thank you to everyone in the Abundance and Prosperity group… without you… I would be choosing differently.”
Reading Will’s words, I was reminded of my aunt, Edith Wolfe. Aunt Edith was a United Church of Christ minister and someone that I admired very much because of her practical approach to her ministry. Aunt Edith never married or had children of her own, so she doted on her nieces and nephews quite a bit, taking us with her on her many travels. Just as I turned 21, and she was turning 65, she took me with her on her final sabbatical, which was a round-the-world trip that included Japan, Sri Lanka, India and South Africa.
As we traveled together, she was often asked to preach. The sermon that she used most often was called, “Give Thanks Whatever Happens.” The core message of that sermon has come back to me in the ensuing years and is the foundation for my beliefs about gratitude.
First, give thanks that it wasn’t worse.
It’s a funny thing in life – no matter what your situation, you can always find something that could make it worse.
Second, give thanks for what we have left.
When mourning life’s losses, we tend to focus on what has been destroyed, what has been lost, what it is that we can never retrieve again. But as Will said, “…this is the end of my apartment, and the beginning of another journey.” We are alive. We have each other. We have our community. We have hope.
Third, give thanks for what we can learn.
Instead of focusing on fault or blame, find the lesson in what happened. These life lessons help guide our choices in life, and by focusing on them, we alleviate guilt and regret and can move forward lovingly.
Lastly, we can give thanks for what we can do.
We can join together as a community. We can love one another. We can rebuild. We can begin again.
What is it about giving thanks that is so magical? When we give thanks, we shift our experience from one of despair, to one of hope. We tell the universe – I want more of… fill in the blank. As it turns out, gratitude is a “beingness” experience. You don’t actually have to have anything to be grateful for to feel grateful. Plato said: A grateful mind is a great mind, which eventually attracts itself to great things!
Like Will, I am grateful for so many things. I am grateful for my spiritual community. I am grateful for my family, for my husband, and my children. I am grateful for music. I am grateful for nature, and water, and sun, and love, and joy.
And so I would ask… Are we grateful because we have so much? Or do we have so much because we are grateful?