“Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others.” – Cicero
I began the summer of gratitude challenge to learn how to experience the world through the magical filter of thanksgiving. As I have consciously stopped the insidious habit of taking the details of my life for granted and focused on them as gifts, I have become both more joyful and more able to actually receive the goodness that is right in front of me. It was such a powerful shift that I planned the summer of gratitude contest, which invited readers to share their own stories of gratitude.
The responses have made me more grateful still. Tender stories of near death experiences or even the lessons of loss have instilled brought me to tears. Realizing how little time we really have to love and appreciate the people who matter to us was a source of deep gratitude for many. I often use this technique to wake myself up to a grateful way of seeing. It only takes a quick mental prod for me to imagine that this might be the last moment I have to tell someone how much they mean to me.
Other stories reflected on the fragility of life and how exquisite the world is even in the midst of tragedy. I had never realized how much beauty and tenderness we hold for each other as we live through traumatic experiences. It may actually be one of the times when we are most fully human and able to be grateful for our time here. Trauma cuts away all of the superfluous and judgments. We lean into life with our hearts open and all you can be is grateful.
Still other stories were about the glory of the mundane…. sunsets, flowers in bloom, dogs on a walk, marriages intact, children healthy. Opening our eyes to the wonder of the lives we are living day in and day out changes everything. Some people commented that expressing gratitude shouldn’t be a contest, but rather a celebration. Truly after reading the responses, it seems true that it is impossible to choose a winner. Still, it feels easy to offer gifts for these stories and so we are awarding the first of many gratitude packages randomly in hopes that the momentum of the responses builds.
Adding gratitude to the world is cleansing, like the way the air smells after a warm summer rain. So pour it on. Notice the goodness around you and share it. Everyone wins.