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Gratitude: A Way Of Life

There was a time in my life when, if I ever thought about it at all, gratitude was the stuff of saints and martyrs.  Don’t get me wrong.  I said my “thank you’s” as I was taught, but the underlying reason was usually selfish.  I didn’t want to be considered bad mannered; if I said thank you for this (whatever gift/favor), then I might get more.  You get the picture.

As I eventually, and very slowly, moved toward a semblance of maturity in my life (picture after age thirty five!!), gratitude began to take on a life of its own for me.  Actually it became a way of life for me. I owe my very life and breathe in this present moment to a second chance at life, and for this I am most grateful.  I don’t mean that I said “thank you” and moved on.  That wouldn’t even begin to cut the cake.

I start my every day with a word of gratitude on my lips and in my heart.  Somehow this puts me into a state of humility. Not the groveling-on-my-hands-and-knees, what-can-I-do-for-you kind of humility which is really not humility at all but a form of self-humiliation.  No, I refer to the humility that helps me realize that I’m not the center of the universe, that people, places and things do not revolve around me nor are they at my beck and call.  The kind of humility that helps me to say things like  “I don’t know”, “I’m sorry, I don’t have the answer to that”, “Please can you help/show/teach me”.

I try to show my gratitude for all the blessings that I have in my life by giving back when and where I can.  This doesn’t mean that I donate money left, right and center, though I can give some and I do when it’s possible.  But I can volunteer in many ways: at my church, at the Food Pantry, in Detox Centers, with Community Hospice.  And what about being a truly genuine, good friend?  These are just a few possibilities for living in gratitude; there are many other ways.

Most of all I try to live in a state of love and compassion.  The Hellenistic Jewish philosopher Philo says, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle”.  I have no idea what is happening in the life of each person I see on the street.  (Nobody had a clue about the demons I was fighting, they just saw a some what insane, self centered person who bulldozed her way through life creating havoc.)  This does not mean that people should not be held accountable for bad behavior, but it does mean that I need to show compassion and understanding rather than being critical and judgmental.

And you know something?  I sleep the better for this.  I rarely find myself living in resentment or anger.  Gone are the days when I wallow in self-pity or live in the land of “what if…..”.  And for all this I am truly grateful.