Connection & Gratitude

Connection to Gratitude

Day Nine

Lent 2019

 

“At the heart of virtue is knowledge of the good.”  This quote is from Timothy Sedgwick, Academic Dean for Academic Affairs and Vice President and the Clinton S. Quin Professor of Christian Ethics at Virginia Theological Seminary.  Actually Dr. Sedgwick is best known as an Episcopal ethicist, a fact of being that surprises many being.   Not that I mean he should not be known for his standing but that we have such things as ethicists and that they exist within a denomination.

 

Try as I do to keep this blog open for all religions and spiritualities, at some point we must admit to our commonality and the search for that which is good.  To deny such would be, in my humble opinion, denying the existence of life itself.

 

Life is lived in relationship to others.  No matter who you are, what you have, your profession, your status or lack thereof…All life is lived in relationship to others – people, places, things, and the whole of creation.  This is a concept also posited in Sedgwick’s book “The Christian Moral Life”.  One of the more interesting things he discusses, however, is not in the text of the book but in the very first footnote:  “The narrative understanding of ethics as a matter of setting, character, and plot has its origins in Aristotle’s “Poems”.

 

Your life is a narrative, a series of events and your reaction to them.  At each moment in our living, we ask and answer the questions “What do I do?”  “What will I purchase?”  “Where will I go?”  One question leads to another and the way in which we answer them becomes the narrative of our lives.  Our answers to those and other questions signify that life is painful and has recovery.  Why would this be important?  It is important because such is true for all of us – Buddhist, Agnostic, Atheist, Hindu, Muslim, Jewish, Christian, Still-Deciding, Refuse-to-Decide, Spiritualist, etc., etc., etc.  If indeed life is lived in relationship to others, then there will be pain, disappointment, unpleasantness, and even betrayal.   There should also be gratitude.

 

We have, in these past several days discussed gratitude and how being thankful can cultivate a better life for those we encounter and for ourselves.  In essence, we have planted a garden, a garden of self and a garden of gratitude.  Every garden has its pests.  Some arrive blown by the wind but others are intentional visitors.  They plunder the young bulbs out of the earth and disrupt the fragile seeds.  They expose what needs to stay buried and eat what can then never become part of our harvest.  Even the weather can invade our ideal setting of the garden.

 

Life is much the same.  There are those people who seem to want only to destroy our tranquil souls and there are always the unexpected life events that, much like a sudden storm, can turn our lives upside down in an instant.  Taking a few moments for the fine art of gratitude, connecting to those things for which we are thankful, can help us weather whatever life throws at us, whatever so-called “pests” happen to come our way.

 

It is how we connect to these people and events that determines our own  narrative, our own life story.  How we connect to our living determines who we are, what self we have planted and nurtured in our being.  Loss can lead to greater understanding and appreciation if we allow ourselves to learn and grow from it.  In his book “The Moral Christian Life”, Sedgwick describes something he calls the Covenant of Hospitality.

 

‘Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.”  There are many variations of this saying which appears in Hebrews Chapter 13, verse 2.  It is sage wisdom and the very definition of who we are.  How we treat and connect to those who can seemingly do nothing for us speaks volumes as to whom we are as beings.

 

The connections we make in our life are a mirror of our souls.  I am not just talking about the people we know or the charities we may support.  I am talking about the connections we have to our pets, our material possessions, and yes, even our dreams.  Herman Melville wrote about such connections.  “We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men; and among those fibers, as sympathetic threads, our actions run as causes, and they come back to us as effects.”

 

John Lennon explained it a little differently.  “A dream you dream alone is only a dream.  A dream you dream together is reality.”  When we connect with the world and everything in it for positive results, then we are truly living the best self and life we can offer.  Lennon wrote: “You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.  Someday I hope you’ll join us…and the world will live as one.”  We need not only to dream but to give thanks.  It will not only help illuminate our own narrative of life, it can change that of a neighbor or fellow treaveler.

 

 

Gratitude in Community

Gratitude in Community

2018.11.23

Growing Community

 

Gratitude is something that crosses all and boundaries and countries, cultures, and ages.  Gratitude is something we all can do and express and should.  The impact gratitude has on a community, whether it is a community of two or two million, is amazing and vital to the growth and sustaining of the community.

 

National Gratitude Month is an annual designation observed in November.  Gratitude is more than simply saying “thank you.”  Gratitude’s amazing powers have the ability to shift us from focusing on the negative to appreciating what is positive in our lives.  Everything in our lives has the ability to improve when we are grateful. Research has shown that gratitude can enhance our moods, decrease stress and drastically improve our overall level of health and wellbeing. On average, grateful people tend to have fewer stress-related illnesses and experience less depression and lowered blood pressure.   They are more physically fit, they are happier, have a higher income, more satisfying personal and professional relationships and will be better liked. Grateful kids are even more likely to get A’s in school.

 

If everyone practiced daily gratitude, we could change ourselves and the planet for the better.  Everyone would be much happier.  Love would grow and hate would decrease.  And the world would know true peace.  People who keep gratitude journals on a weekly basis have fewer physical symptoms, exercise more, are optimistic, and feel better about their lives as a whole.  They offer emotional support to others and are considered helpful. Many studies have proven that daily discussions of gratitude results in higher levels of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, attentiveness, energy, and better sleep quality.

 

Grateful people tend to put less importance on material goods, are less likely to judge others based upon material possessions, and are more likely to share their possessions with others.  Emerging research suggests that daily gratitude practices may have preventive benefits in warding off coronary artery disease.  Increasing positive, grateful thoughts can increase a sense of well-being.

 

Entrepreneur Deborah Sweeney feels gratitude is a necessary component in any business model.  “very morning when I wake up, I reflect on everything that I’m grateful for. I do this before I get out of bed. It only takes a couple of minutes, but this kind of inner reflection helps me set the tone for my day.

How you practice gratitude will differ for every entrepreneur, but the key to embracing an attitude of gratitude is making it a daily habit to be thankful. Where you are, how long you dwell on the thoughts, and what makes you thankful are details you can tweak to make your own. All that matters is making it a regular part of your day — and one that you genuinely enjoy taking a break to do.  Don’t just think of the things that are so obvious. Instead, try to think of mundane things that you’re grateful for. For example, I’m thankful I live in a safe environment. It may not be as obvious as being thankful for my parents or children, but I don’t take any of it for granted.”

 

Sweeney continues:  “As I mentioned before, gratitude differs for everyone but it’s important to consider the smaller details just as much as you would the bigger picture. Look beyond what’s obvious. Maybe you have a small Bonsai tree you keep in your office that makes you feel happy to look at or perhaps it’s a card you received in the mail from a friend you hadn’t heard from in a while. Take stock in the little things that happen throughout your day that makes you thankful. Who knows — your own actions might be part of someone else’s daily attitude of gratitude!”

 

This weekend we living in the USA are celebrating Thanksgiving.  It really should be a daily habit for us all.  The physical, mental, emotional health benefits are proven and being thankful serves to remind us we have a purpose, a reason to live, and a place in the universe. 

Mayflower Compact

Mayflower Compact

2018.11.21-22

Growing Community

 

If you go to the website plimouth.org, you will read what a community of Americans describes as the first Thanksgiving.  The community decided that was how they wished history to be.  However, it is not fact but rather a perspective that protected the community from seeming to be cruel or heartless.  Sometimes a community feels it must do such to protect itself.  I don’t know exactly when those in charge of Plimouth plantation decided to fabricate the partially true bit of history but it might fall under the heading of “fake news”.

 

Approximately 398 years ago, plus one day, the men aboard a ship of immigrants fleeing persecution were nearing the end of their sixty-six day journey across the Atlantic Ocean.  Hoping to soon set foot on dry land, they devised a legal and binding contract of behavior and governance for all to follow.  Before each man set foot off the ship he was expected to sign the document that, as of the late 1700’s, has become known as the Mayflower Compact. 

 

The ship these immigrants sailed upon was called the Mayflower and it was under the steerage of Christopher Jones.  Known as the master (today we would consider him the Captain), Jones’ quarters were at the back of the ship in the stern.  The sailors lived in quarters at the front of the ship and used a hole cut into the tip of the bow or head for their personal hygiene needs.  The quarters consisted on one room known as the forecastle, a wet room constantly hit by crashing waves and frequently quite cold.  In the area between the Captain’s berth and the forecastle were the quarters for the officers.

 

The passengers on the Mayflower were considered cargo.  One hundred and two men, women, and children lived in the dark cargo decks below the crew.  Today there are caravans of immigrants escaping persecution from Central and South America approaching the United States border but in 1620, the fleeing immigrants were below the decks, seldom seeing the sun and feeling the full brunt of the ocean’s currents, tides, and waves.

 

These immigrants in 1620 were known as the Pilgrims.  Before leaving England, they had obtained permission from the King of England to settle on land farther to the south near the mouth of the Hudson River (in present-day New York).  The wind drew them off course and instead landing farther south where they had expected to make shore, they landed in New England.  This meant they needed a new permission (called a patent) to settle there as all land in this New World had been claimed as property of the King of England. On November 11, 1620, feeling the need to maintain order and establish a civil society while they waited for this new patent, the adult male passengers signed the Mayflower Compact.

 

At this juncture, two important points need to be made.  First, there were over five thousand groups of people already living in this New World as the North American continent was known in 1620.  Claiming it for the sovereignty of England did not erase this fact.  These people had spent decades and centuries to reach this land mass, coming originally as immigrants from the Caucus Mountains.  Today in the USA they are called Native Americans or American Indians.  The Canadian term is much more apt – First Families.  Archaeological evidence places their arrival some thirty thousand years before Europeans reached North America and some twenty thousand years in South America.  It is estimated they arrived some fifteen thousand years before the Vikings reached the shores of northern North America.

 

The second important point is that communities make such compacts as a way of maintaining order.  This is true of religious communities, volunteer groups, municipalities, social organizations, businesses, etc.  It is to be hoped that such documents include all parties involved and are written to the greatest maximum benefit of all.  In keeping with the times, only men signed the Mayflower Compact as women were not considered to be of mental acuity to understand such.  Gender discrimination is not a modern-day issue.  Much like the laws of today, though, a piece of paper cannot guarantee success, or that all will follow what has been agreed upon, or that order will lead to a better tomorrow.  The community itself must work together for the betterment of all and be willing to chance.  If not, well…that is where things can often get complicated.  They certainly did in 1620.

 

Of the 102 passengers on the Mayflower, there were 50 men, 19 women and 33 young adults and children.  Just 41 were true Pilgrims, religious separatists seeking freedom from the Church of England.  The others were considered common folk and included merchants, craftsmen, indentured servants and orphaned children—the Pilgrims called them “strangers.”  Seeking the right to worship as they wished, the Pilgrims had signed a contract with the Virginia Company to settle on land near the Hudson River, which was then part of northern Virginia.  The Virginia Company was a trading company chartered by King James I with the goal of colonizing parts of the eastern coast of the New World.  London stockholders financed the Pilgrim’s voyage with the understanding they’d be repaid in profits from the new settlement.

 

The strangers argued the Virginia Company contract was void. They felt since the Mayflower had landed outside of Virginia Company territory, they were no longer bound to the company’s charter.  The defiant strangers refused to recognize any rules since there was no official government over them.  Pilgrim leader William Bradford later wrote, “… several strangers made discontented and mutinous speeches.”  The Pilgrims knew if something wasn’t done quickly it could be every man, woman and family for themselves.  It’s unclear who wrote the Mayflower Compact, but the well-educated Separatist and pastor William Brewster is usually given credit.  One now-famous colonist who signed the Mayflower Compact was Myles Standish. He was an English military officer hired by the Pilgrims to accompany them to the New World to serve as military leader for the colony. Standish played an important role in enforcing the new laws and protecting colonists against the natives of the area who were considered unfriendly.

 

In establishing a community, it should be noted that other communities must be considered.  The Europeans came to this new land mass wanting to own all and did not give thought to those who were already living on the land and considered it theirs.  Because they dressed differently, had different customs and practices, they were considered savage.  When they tried to protect their homes, gardens, food sources, and families, they were called unfriendly. 

 

William Bradford kept diaries and what we known of the original Mayflower Compact has been learned through his diaries.  The original handwritten document has been lost but copies remain from over one hundred years later that are considered good references for it.  The Mayflower Compact created laws for Mayflower Pilgrims and non-Pilgrims alike for the good of their new colony. It was a short document which established that: the colonists would remain loyal subjects to King James, despite their need for self-governance; the colonists would live in accordance with the Christian faith; the colonists would create one society and work together to further it; the colonists would create and enact “laws, ordinances, acts, constitutions and offices…” for the good of the colony, and abide by those laws.  The newly-formed Plymouth (or Plimouth) colony was their new community and John Carver was elected governor on November 21, 1620, three hundred and ninety-eight days ago. 

 

That first year was brutal.  Disease, improper clothing for the elements, lack of food and shelter resulted in the deaths of over half of those making the voyage aboard the Mayflower.  Of the eighteen adult women in the new community, fifteen perished that first year.  The Mayflower Compact is considered important as it established self-governance in this new land, the first of any such.  It remained active until Plymouth Colony became part of the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1691.  John Carver perished that first year and William Bradford took over as governor. 

 

Also at the end of that first year, the new colonists discovered their neighbors were not so savage after all.  The end of the growing season meant the Indians would have their ritual of a harvest feast.  They invited the colonists to join them and the two communities, at least for several days, came together in peace and community.  Sadly, the Massachusetts Indians who were the hosts succumbed to the germs the English brought with them, typical everyday germs we all carry on our bodies.  There was no conspiracy to eliminate the Massachusetts tribe but it did.  The remaining thirty or so members of the tribe led by Chief Massasoit then joined a neighboring tribe, the Wampanoag Indians.  It was an Indian custom to have young men participate in an exchange program with neighboring tribes.  Such a custom shared knowledge but also led to an understanding and often, prevention of warfare.  It enabled the two somewhat different communities to ensure a future through discourse and education rather than annihilation.

 

Many believe the Mayflower Compact set the stage for the US Constitution.  However, the legislative branch of the US government bears more similarities to the governance of the Massachusetts and Wampanoag tribes than the Mayflower Compact.  This is, however, the way of history.  We form communities and we learn.  Those communities thrive when we gain and take the best of the past, giving thanks for lessons learned, and then move forward.  Of the time the Pilgrims had spent in the Dutch republic city of Leiden, historian Nathaniel Philbrick once wrote:  “Just as a spiritual covenant had marked the beginning of their congregation in Leiden, a civil covenant would provide the basis for a secular government in America.”

 

Many times we think of a spiritual covenant as relating to faith, a religious doctrine but I would offer that truly it is a nonphysical grouping of belief and we all have such.  This week might not be a time where you have an official Thanksgiving Holiday but I do think it a good time to give thanks.  We all should have an attitude of gratitude and move forward, committed to making our world a better community for all.  This provides not only a civil covenant for the future but a basis of a better tomorrow for us all. 

 

 

 

 

 

Gratitude

Gratitude

Jan 9

 

It is often said that “Home is where the heart is” but where exactly is our heart?  Earlier this week I asked you the reader how you wanted to be known.  What do your daily activities say about you?  How do they illustrate your beliefs?  We have discussed having a bountiful life and manifesting our faith in how we live.  Two year ago we peeked into the lives of many humanitarians through the use of verbs, those action words found in each and every sentence.  We talked about the comic genius of Tom Shadyac, the youngest writer to have ever worked for Bob Hope.  Then we discussed the comic genius himself, Mr. Bob Hope.

 

Long before Tom Shadyac was even born, Bob Hope had made a name for himself in Hollywood as an actor, singer, dancer, vaudeville performer, producer, comedian, and yes, even an athlete.  Hope appeared in over seventy films and countless television programs during his eighty-plus year career.  He also made over fifty USO tours to entertain United States military personnel overseas.  Bob Hope’s passion for living was illustrated in his unique ways of saying “Thank you”.  His popular and annual USO tours were his way of showing gratitude to military personnel who fought for freedom and peace worldwide.  An avid golfer, Hope appeared in over one hundred and fifty charity golf tournaments each year.  He and his wife Delores adopted four children and lived in the same house from 1937 until his death in 2003 at the age of 100 years.

 

Bob Hope is proof that one needs not be born into wealth in order to create it or spread it in gratitude to multiple agencies and people worldwide.  Born in London to a stonemason and opera singer who later worked at a dry cleaners business, Lesley Hope came to the United States with his six siblings and parents, arriving through the famed Ellis Island in 1908.  He worked as a butcher before signing up to take dance lessons with a girlfriend.  Hope then decided on a career in show business and began as a dancer on vaudeville.

 

Bob Hope actually flunked a screen test in the 1930’s but used the experience to better his skills.  His career began on radio and he became known for his comedic wit and timing.  While known for his support of the USO or United Service Organization, Bob Hope lent his name and efforts to various other charitable organizations.  It was because of his gratitude and support for the military that Congress awarded him an honorary veteran in the late 1960’s.

 

Ralph Waldo Emerson once advised “Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.”  With all of his talents and skills, perhaps the greatest one Bob Hope possessed was the ability to show gratitude.

 

Gratitude is simply saying “Thank you” to someone and yet, it is often overlooked.  How many times have we failed to tell a friend thank you or neglected to follow up with said friend when they are absent?  Once upon a time writing thank you notes was a common trend but somehow, we have detached ourselves from saying thank you. 

 

Many claim they are too busy and others just assume that the gratitude we feel in our hearts somehow gets known by others.  The truth is that most of us fail to show gratitude or express it.  There are no excuses.  I am not going to sugar-coat this.  We need to live an attitude of gratitude every minute and especially show it to our friends.  There is even an app to help us out, an app called the Art of Giving.

 

In her book “Eat, Pray, Love”, Elizabeth Gilbert writes:  “In the end, though, maybe we must all give up trying to pay back the people in this world who sustain our lives. In the end, maybe it’s wiser to surrender before the miraculous scope of human generosity and to just keep saying thank you, forever and sincerely, for as long as we have voices.”

 

At the end of each performance, for over fifty years, Bob Hope expressed his own personal style and gratitude by his famous one-liner….”Thanks for the memories.” There will always be another job to do, another hill to climb, another dish to wash, or book to read.  This moment, this minute, though, will never come again.  We all live a bountiful life of some sort.  We also all are the recipient of someone else’s kindness.  Take a minute to show gratitude to someone.  Let them know…Thank you.

Grace in Motion

Grace in Motion

Advent

 

It is often said that “Home is where the heart is” but where exactly is our heart?  What do your daily activities say about you?  How do they illustrate your beliefs?  During this series about manifesting faith in how we live, in the grace we show to others, we will remember, I hope, that grace is an action verb.

 

Bob Hope had made a name for himself in Hollywood as an actor, singer, dancer, vaudeville performer, producer, comedian, and yes, even an athlete.  He appeared in over seventy films and countless television programs during his eighty-plus year career and also made over fifty USO tours to entertain United States military personnel overseas.

 

Bob Hope’s passion for living was illustrated in his unique ways of saying “Thank you”.  His popular and annual USO tours were his way of showing gratitude to military personnel who fought for freedom and peace worldwide.  An avid golfer, Hope appeared in over one hundred and fifty charity golf tournaments each year.  He and his wife Delores adopted four children and lived in the same house from 1937 until his death in 2003 at the age of 100 years.

 

Bob Hope is proof that one needs not be born into wealth in order to create it or spread it in gratitude to multiple agencies and people worldwide.  Born in London to a stonemason and opera singer who later worked at a dry cleaners business, Lesley Hope came to the United States with his six siblings and parents, arriving through the famed Ellis Island in 1908.  He worked as a butcher before signing up to take dance lessons with a girlfriend.  Hope then decided on a career in show business and began as a dancer on vaudeville.

 

Bob Hope actually flunked a screen test in the 1930’s but used the experience to better his skills.  His career began on radio and he became known for his comedic wit and timing.  While known for his support of the USO or United Service Organization, Bob Hope lent his name and efforts to various other charitable organizations.  It was because of his gratitude and support for the military that Congress awarded him an honorary veteran in the late 1960’s.

 

Ralph Waldo Emerson once advised “Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.”  With all of his talents and skills, perhaps the greatest one Bob Hope possessed was the ability to show gratitude.  It is not a coincidence that gratitude comes from the same root word as grace.

 

Gratitude is simply saying “Thank you” to someone and yet, it is often overlooked.  How many times have we failed to tell a friend thank you or neglected to follow up with said friend when they are absent?  Once upon a time writing thank you notes was a common trend but somehow, we have detached ourselves from saying thank you. 

 

In her book “Eat, Pray, Love”, Elizabeth Gilbert writes:  “In the end, though, maybe we must all give up trying to pay back the people in this world who sustain our lives. In the end, maybe it’s wiser to surrender before the miraculous scope of human generosity and to just keep saying thank you, forever and sincerely, for as long as we have voices.”

 

At the end of each performance, for over fifty years, Bob Hope expressed his own personal style and gratitude by his famous one-liner….”Thanks for the memories.” There will always be another job to do, another hill to climb, another dish to wash, or book to read.  This moment, this minute, though, will never come again.  Take a minute to show gratitude to someone.  Showing gratitude is just one form of grace in motion.

Snowball Effect

Snowball Effect

Pentecost 195

 

I once wrote a thank you note to someone who, in turn, replied with a thank you note to me.  I had written my note in thankfulness for their performance; we will call that Note A.  Their thank you note was to let me know how touched they were by what I had said; let’s call that Note B.  I do not really recall exactly what Note A said and I doubt I spent days drafting it.  However, their note to me was beautifully written and I was so affected by Note B, I felt I should write a thank you note for it.  I suddenly realized that the saga of the thank you notes was starting to sound like the set-up for a Laurel and Hardy joke.  Then I recognized that, like faith, such gratitude is supposed to take on a life of its own.  The snowball effect of each is what makes them so important.

 

The first step you should take in beginning a new day or project is to think positively.  Negative thinking narrows one’s field of vision.  Imagine yourself swimming in the shallow waters of a beautiful ocean resort.  Suddenly someone cries “Shark!”  You no longer are focused on the rest of the people on the beach but only on getting yourself out of the water.  This is a healthy instinct of self-preservation but your focus has also become extremely self-centered. 

 

Recently a great deal of the rhetoric has been about “I”.  One person claims to have all the answers while another says they voted to protect themselves.  The ego or “I” is the conscious self so it is not unnatural that we would consider it in most things.  The problem is that the “I” is not the only living entity on the planet.  There is also a “You” and “We”.  The word affect is a verb, grammatically speaking, in the English language.  Basically it means to have an impact on something or someone.  In writing this blog I am hoping to affect your thinking and encourage you to do something positive to benefit all of us, the family of mankind.  Since a verb is an action word, to affect something or someone is to bring about change.

 

Effect is most commonly used as a noun, the result of an action or, as we just discussed, a thought process.  While I am encouraging you to affect someone in this series by positive action, the intent is that your actions will create a productive effect or result.  “Affect” refers to the doing; “Effect” denotes the end result of that doing or action.  Effect also can be defined in another way.  It can also mean someone’s personal belongings.  This might seem confusing and yes, it can be but I like that effect is both the result and the possession.  It encourages us to be accountable for our actions.  No one is going to score a perfect rating on our actions.  We all make mistakes.  This is where thinking positive can keep us from letting past actions become a future death sentence.  Thinking positive people also have lower blood pressure and sleep better.

 

Positive emotions help us to broaden our field of vision and imagine what is possible instead of seeing only the negative and dire outcomes.  Maybe yesterday really was the worst day of life.  Today really can be the first day of the rest of your life.  Take care of yourself and start the day off thinking of possibilities.  Share a smile with another and together you will create something extraordinary out of an ordinary facial movement.   Maybe you really don’t have time for going to the movies but take the time hurrying on your commute to notice the flowers along your path.  A healthy person can accomplish much more than one who is thinking or feeling negative.  We all have time for a smile and the first smile of the day should be a smile to you.

 

Living positively benefits the “I” and also the “We”.  To make the most of living and do what is best for “You” involves helping another and being grateful for when someone helps you.  The time for talk is over.  It is now time for action.   As Walt Whitman once said, “If you keep your face towards the sunshine, the shadows will fall behind you.”  With one ordinary affect, you will create an extraordinary effect.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two Word Miracle

Two-Word Miracle

Pentecost 190

 

In the book, play, and movie “The Wizard of Oz”, a little girl is lost and tries to find her way home.  The story is about a girl caught up in a tornado who is blown into a strange and fanciful land where lions are cowardly, men are made of tin and bolts, a scarecrow comes to life, and a wicked witch thwarts her every attempt.  The story ends as the young girl realizes that she had the magic secret inside her all the time – a five word sentence, “There’s no place like home.”

 

How wonderful would it be if we could create miracles just by saying a word or two?  What a glorious thing if we could improve someone’s day just by saying a sentence!  At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Albert Schweitzer once said that “Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.”  What makes another person’s flame burn brighter as well as our own is our expressing gratitude aloud.

 

In writing for Psychology Todat several years ago, Dr. Susan Krauss Whitbourne explained:  “We all like being thanked. It’s a great feeling to have someone, especially someone who doesn’t stand to gain, tell us that we made a difference in their lives. In the past few weeks, I’ve had the good fortune of receiving some heartfelt thank you notes from students, pausing as they got ready to leave campus for the summer, or perhaps for good, to take a moment and let me know that something I said or did proved helpful to them. I’ve also had the good fortune of having favors done for me by people who went out of their way to help me solve a problem, fix something, or in fortunately only one case- return a lost cellphone. Being thanked and having reason to thank others are two sides of the same gratefulness coin. Both exemplify the positive in human behavior and provide us with a positive charge that boosts our emotional balance.”

 

Gratitude is a two-way street.  Researchers have scientific proof that habitually focusing on and appreciating the positive aspects of life is related to a generally higher level of psychological well-being and a lower risk of certain forms of psychopathology.  People who express gratitude tend to be free from undue amounts of stress and depression, have higher I.Q. levels, and are more willing to support others.

 

“Thank you” can be a two-word miracle that costs nothing to express and share.  Marelisa Fabrega agrees.  “Gratitude means thankfulness, counting your blessings, noticing simple pleasures, and acknowledging everything that you receive. It means learning to live your life as if everything were a miracle, and being aware on a continuous basis of how much you’ve been given. Gratitude shifts your focus from what your life lacks to the abundance that is already present.”

 

No one has everything they want or perhaps even everything they feel they need.  We all, however, have something for which we can be grateful.  Share that thankfulness.  William Arthur War once said “feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a Christmas present and not giving it.”  Make today into a miracle by telling someone a simple “Thank you.”