Oprah Winfrey told a story about a time when she was facing tragic circumstances and felt almost breathless with dread and despair. She called Maya Angelou, a good friend, poet and philosopher, and spoke this despair into the phone. According to Winfrey, Angelou immediately said – “Quick, what are you grateful for?” Oprah thought she was hearing things – or her friend had suddenly gone crazy. “What did you say?” Oprah cried. Angelou replied “Think, now, about all the things that you are grateful for. Take a breath and be thankful and full of gratitude.” And so, Oprah did as she was told, and slowly her despair calmed itself. Such is the power of gratitude.
I have kept a Gratitude Journal for a long time, now, and it has seen me through many troubled times. Just the act of sitting and writing a list of things, both big and small, that I am thankful for can be helpful in facing a crisis – or a bad mood. And you quickly come to realize that there is, indeed, so much to be grateful for.
Here are some different ways to express your gratitude.
- Keep your own Gratitude Journal. Write in it each (or almost each) day, and simply list 5 things you are grateful for. Don’t bother to be elaborate. It can be as simple as “this sunny day” or “knitting.”
- Create and decorate a Gratitude Box. Write, on small slips of paper, what blessings and graces you have received during the day. When you need a reminder, take out some of the slips of paper and read them over. Again – remind yourself of God’s grace and bounty.
- Many of my friends on Facebook are participating in a Thanksgiving Challenge – to post on Facebook every day in November, one thing (or person) for which they are thankful. Posts have ranged from being thankful for husbands or wives to being thankful for medicine to control epilepsy, to gratitude and joy in the music of Frank Sinatra. Join the Facebook Thanksgiving Challenge or create your own, private, 25-days-of thankfulness.
- If you don’t already, start saying Grace at dinner. There are many books, as well as online sources, that list graces that are appropriate for all occasions. Try one. The Book of Common Prayer has a beautiful General Thanksgiving (on page 836) that we often say at our Thanksgiving table.
Accept, O Lord, our thanks and praise for all that you have done for us. We thank you for the splendor of the whole creation, for the beauty of this world, for the wonder of life and for the mystery of love.
We thank you for the blessings of family and friends, and for the loving care which surrounds us of every side.
We thank you for setting us at tasks which demand our best efforts, and for leading us to accomplishments which satisfy and delight us.
We thank you also for those disappointments and failures that lead us to acknowledge our dependence on you alone.
Above all, we thank you for your Son, Jesus Christ; for the truth of his Word and the example of his life; for his steadfast obedience, by which he overcame temptation; for his dying, through which he overcame death; and for his rising to life again, in which we are raised to the life of your kingdom.
Grant us the gift of your Spirit, that we may know him and make him known; and through him, at all times and in all places may give thanks to you in all things. Amen
Annie Lamott, author of Traveling Mercies, says there are 2 prayers she says all the time. “Please, please, please,” is the first; “thank you, thank you, thank you,” is the second. There is power and healing in gratitude. Practice gratitude and see.