Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Reflection on the meaning of gratitude

Tomorrow is the holiday in America that we call thanksgiving. It has become cliche to comment upon the fact that the thanksgiving holiday in our global consumerist culture has become essentially an afterthought on the way to christmas, and christmas in turn an afterthought on the way to gift giving and bargain hunting. Therefore, it becomes almost impossible to say anything that hasn't already been said a thousand times, that doesn't sound like the same old drone of the advertisements and solictations that bombard us daily; it seems like we've branded and marketed every aspect of existence....staked out some kind of claim of consumption on every word and idea. However, I got an e-mail today from a friend in Uganda that I thought was truly remarkable, a fresh and inspiring word as we prepare to celebrate thanksgiving. My friend is a formerly homeless boy who now as an adult lives with and walks alongside others in the same life space that he once occupied. He is a bright, articulate and inspiring person.....a bright light shining in the midst of a "generation" that is, frankly....struggling. I spend most of my time trying to make things "add up" and figure out how to find the necessary resources for the task at hand. Consequently, I regularly lose perspective and fail to heed the incredible wisdom of the words below....I wanted to share them with you. I hope that the folks in Pyongyang and Seoul, and all of us around the world, can take a break and sit with them this season.

Dear Billy,

Rhita and I and all the Rukundos would like to wish you and your family a Happy Thanksgiving. We join you in thanking God for all the blessings and we know you are all grateful for many things He has done in your lives including the gift of life.

Gratitude implies a total stance or orientation toward life. It is rooted in a conviction that life has meaning that it was designed and is sustained by a loving God, who can ‘work all things together for our good.’ It is why Jesus taught: “…in this world you will have tribulation – but be of good cheer – I have overcome the world…I tell you these things that you might have peace.” John 16:33

In other words, gratitude sees all of life as a gift. And once we develop that orientation – it is a ‘game changer.’ It redefines everything and all other virtues flow from that orientation. This is why an individual can almost be defined by the level of gratitude in their life.

Gratitude means thankfulness, counting our blessings, noticing simple pleasures, and acknowledging everything that we receive. It means learning to live our life as if everything were a miracle, and being aware on a continuous basis of how much we’ve been given.

Gratitude shifts our focus from what our life lacks to the abundance that is already present. Giving thanks makes people happier and more resilient, it strengthens relationships, it improves health, and it reduces stress.

Happy Thanksgiving,