“Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.” – A.A. Milne
Recently I had one of those mornings where it seemed like nothing was going well. I’d managed to make a friend unhappy with me, I was worrying about a decision I’d made, and my work seemed like it was piling up faster than I could get it done. The combination of events elevated my heart rate, and sent waves of frustration coursing through my system. It really wasn’t a big deal in the larger scheme of things, but it seemed like a really big deal at that moment. Then, when lunchtime came I stepped outside and two things immediately caught my attention. One was the smell of freshly-mown grass that hung in the air, and the other was the sight of a tree barely holding onto the last of its crimson-colored leaves. I took a deep breath and I was reminded that there is so much to be thankful for. My problems hadn’t disappeared, but somehow they suddenly seemed more manageable.
There is plenty of struggle and pain and disappointment in the life of even the happiest person. That’s just the way things are. But there are also plenty of little moments of joy and pleasure in even the darkest of each of our days. We can focus on the hardships of our daily life and grow fearful, frustrated, angry, and depressed. Or we can decide to pay attention to the little gifts we have been given.
Gratitude is an attitude. It is about choosing where we will place our focus as we move through life. It is about acknowledging the good we already have in our life right now, rather than bemoaning all the hardships of the past or putting all our hopes in tomorrow. “This is the day that the LORD has made,” sings the Psalmist. “We will rejoice and be glad in it.” (Ps. 118:24)
The grateful person is the one who embraces all the little wonders that each day offers. They pay attention to even the smallest of blessings in their life: a tasty piece of gooey cherry pie, warm clothes straight from the dryer, the steam rising from the morning cup of coffee which we encircle with our hands, a joke that makes us chuckle, a smile from a co-worker, a glance outside at the falling leaves, a brisk walk. The grateful person treats such small pleasures as gifts.
Research has found that people who cultivate an attitude of gratitude tend to feel more alive, experience more joy, sleep better, are less prone to depression, and even have stronger immune systems. It makes sense to be thankful.
Gratitude arises from paying attention. It says “thank you” for the fresh gifts of each new day. They are, as Lamentations 3:22,23 reminds us, “new every morning.” But do we notice them?
Or are we too caught up in the big challenges before us, with worrying and wishing and complaining about our misfortunes? One thinks of Job and all the struggles he faced. While Job’s friends thought they were offering comfort by their theological explanations for what he was going through, God didn’t really offer Job any explanation at all. Instead, He challenged Job to take notice, to pay attention to the beauty, the mystery, and the wonders of the world around him.
In the midst of our own Job-like experiences perhaps we should shift our focus to the things—big and small—for which we can be grateful.
As Maya Angelou once wrote, “This is a wonderful day. I’ve never seen this one before.”
Can we find the moments of wonder in each new day and be grateful? For when we unwrap these small gifts, we’ll discover the love of God on the inside of each and every one.