An Attitude of Gratitude
The secret of happiness is an attitude of gratitude. As Brother David Stendle-Rast says in his book Gratefulness: The Heart of Prayer, “In daily life, we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy.” This depth of gratitude arises from an overflowing heart. We are grateful for the very fact of being alive. Children are far better at this than we grown-ups are. We can learn much about gratitude by watching how excited and joyful children can become and trying to incorporate those feelings into our daily lives.
Saying “Thank you” is something we do every day, usually automatically, to strangers and loved ones alike. I am amazed that when I say “Thank you,” consciously and from the heart, it changes my day. I have seen how total strangers will respond differently to my words of thanks when I speak to them consciously, with real meaning.
I am inspired by grateful people. A priest friend of mine has a habit of sending out one thank you note a day to honor good behavior. A restaurant owner has a unique tradition of giving gifts on his birthday instead of receiving them. A donor who I was thanking for a recent gift turned the tables on me by stating, “No, don’t you thank me. I thank you for giving me the opportunity to give to your non-profit.”
As a fundraiser for various non-profits over the years, I have learned how important it is to say “Thank you” from anywhere to three to seven times to donors. People need to be appreciated for the good they do. And when you say thanks to others it has a positive effect on the one giving thanks.
Once you take the philosophical stance that everything is a gift, then no matter what happens, you will look for the positive lesson, outcome, or potential inherent in any situation you face. It’s your looking for the gift that makes each experience a gift.
You need an attitude of gratitude adjustment if you consistently exhibit any of the following behavior:
- You whine and complain a lot and often contribute a negative comment about any topic.
- You frequently feel like a victim.
- You haven’t enjoyed a sunrise or a sunset in the last few years.
- You have trouble getting started in the morning.
- You have trouble enjoying the present moment.
- You have resentment about events in the past.
This inner decision of gratitude is not at all related to a Pollyanna philosophy. It’s not a blind sort of optimism. It’s really a deep, spiritual decision of how you want to relate to life. It’s a mindset. I want my attitude toward life to be independent of the inevitable ups and downs. I want my philosophical stance to be consistent, not reactive to other people, circumstances, or luck.
Years ago I scribbled down this short verse which I refer to regularly:
“With feet to take me where I’d go,
With eyes to see the sunset’s glow,
With ears to hear what I would know,
Oh, God, forgive me when I whine;
I’m blessed, indeed! The world is mine.”