Gratitude is the way

The paper arrived this morning with some news and three pounds of marketing to warning of the spending frenzy anticipated to start at midnight. A brief pause of thankfulness and then a mud wallow of desire. Yikes!

Gratefulness is the way, not just an emotional response to what happens along the way. Gratitude precedes, enables, nurtures and finally, completes, life. Thanks is not just a spirit that follows the harvest. It is also the critical insight on which all creative and useful work rests. This is the intelligence underneath the work of “religious health assets” and its hopeful labor of systematically accounting for what we have to work with to build community and nurture health (www.arhap.uct.ac.za). Steve DeGruchy liked to say that “you can’t build a community out of what you don’t have.” So the very first act of leadership is to notice what we do have, what already is, and what it might be good for. The work of noticing is what I’ve come to call the “discipline of abundance.”

We literally have to pay … attention; invest our attentiveness on what we have. This suggests we don’t get gratitude automatically like a burp after a big meal. This is especially true when we wake up to pounds of marketing honing the edge of unfulfilled desire for things we didn’t know we didn’t have. We have to take some of our attention span and consciously direct it away from what is missing toward what is not missing, toward what we are thankful for; toward what we are not afraid of, toward what we are confident of.

The plane was landing in Memphis about 25 hours after I left Tel Aviv last Friday. More than a bit dazed from all the miles, I glanced west out of the window and … noticed. The sky was painted as if God was trying to imitate a Larry Pray watercolor (www.larrypray.com). I fumbled for my iPhone and snapped the picture, which is below unedited. I don’t know how long God worked on that sky, but I’m glad I attended to it.

We have a lot, once you pause even a tiny bit of time to notice. The vast majority of what we have, we did not and could not pay for: the miracles of breathable air, living soil, light, color, food, consciousness, intimacy, clear-eyed friends and work worth doing. A riot of abundance. Plenty.

About garygunderson

Vice President, Faith Health, Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, NC. Author, Leading Causes of Life, Deeply Woven Roots, Boundary Leaders and Religion and the Heath of the Public. Secretary, Stakeholder Health (Health Systems Learning Group).
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One Response to Gratitude is the way

  1. Ron says:

    Thanks for your thoughts on this. To me, gratitude is the basic underpinning of my day. The abundance of God's Grace giving to us, not only daily but often when we least deserve it, requires no less! In these times of a remarkable disconnect between the many in such dire need and the commercialization of the advent season which carries a message of so much hope, it is so necessary to be reminded of what we really value.As usual, you have thoughtfully written a piece to ponder!

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