Gratitude and Generosity
Inspired by One Simple Act by Debbie Macomber
I have written extensively about gratitude over the years and have had a gratitude practice for ages but it wanes at times and I admit to being inconsistent with it. By inconsistent, I mean I don’t always do it the same way day after day but I vary it. There is rarely a day I don’t do something at all about gratitude, even if it is only giving thanks for our food.
But Debbie Macomber writes eloquently about how important it is to have an “attitude of gratitude” before we even begin to think about generosity. Because to her, it is the foundation of giving.
In the first chapter she mentions one of my all time favorite books, The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten-Boom. In the book Corrie tells us of how she and her beloved sister hide escaping Jews in Holland and are eventually found out, placed in Ravensbruck, and end up in a barracks designed for 400 people but jammed with 1400. They have a forbidden Bible with them hidden in their barracks and it is this Bible that they all turn to and read from to sustain their spirits while in this horrid place.
Of course the barracks becomes contaminated with fleas, who bite and chew on the inhabitants relentlessly. It is Corrie’s sister who insists they all be grateful for the fleas because their presence is what keeps the guards from inspecting the room, thus preserving the presence of their Bible. Corrie resists this for a while but later realizes her sister is right, and begins to give thanks for the fleas.
“Fleas” in our own lives can be any one of a number of inconveniences, disappointments, things we don’t like or want in our lives. But to Corrie, and to Ms. Macomber, “Fleas” are things that appear in our lives to help us, not hurt us. We are not meant to judge the wisdom of nature or the will of God but find the silver lining in things and trust that all in the end will be well.
Ms. Macomber highlights the research on gratitude by R.A. Emmons of the University of California, Davis, and M. E. McCullough of the University of Miami. These researchers found that those who kept a gratitude journal “exercised more regularly, reported fewer illness symptoms, felt better about their lives as a whole, and were more optimistic about the upcoming week…..” p. 14
She also states on pp. 15-16 the findings of Stephen Post, PhD. and professor of bioethics at Case Western Reserve University’s School of Medicine. He found the following 5 things that gratitude does:
- Gratitude Defends (increases your body’s natural antibodies)
- Gratitude Sharpens (helps our brain focus and helps avoid depression)
- Gratitude Calms (which in turn helps our blood pressure and heart rate)
- Gratitude Strengthens (helps us in stressful conditions: think of the Fleas)
- Gratitude Heals. (when we are sick, we can heal faster when we focus on gratitude)
Ms. Macomber states: “When gratitude becomes a habit, then generosity seems to follow naturally.” P.15 So giving becomes a natural outgrowth of our gratitude practice.
GIVING AND GENEROSITY:
Here is a basic truth about generosity:
“Cultivating the habit of good deeds will not only affect those around us, it will improve our own emotional well-being” p.49
TO BE CONTINUED……
We will address GIVING in the December issue of our newsletter. Meanwhile Happy Thanksgiving and enjoy your gratitude practice!
SPIRIT AND INSPIRATION
I love the benefits one receives as one ages. Things that used to upset me no longer do. Our perspective changes to reveal an amazing unfoldment of life that could only have been designed by a Higher Power/God/Supreme Being/Source or whatever you choose to call it. So many things have become clear as a bell, confusion taking a back seat. And one truth has revealed itself making my life so full and wonderful: A grateful heart is an open heart. An open heart allows us to welcome in good relationships, good experiences and a happier life.
So many of my earlier years were spent experiencing angst over crazy things. I worried about so many things that ended up being inconsequential or things that worked themselves out perfectly, even though I didn’t think so at the time. But with the perspective that time can give you, things ended up perfectly perfect.
A dear friend of mine recently shared about a workshop she attended and they were asked as part of the workshop to start each day writing down things they were grateful for. She told me it was making a huge difference in her life. They were not to repeat things day after day but rather find new things to write down. And she had not had a bit of trouble finding new things every day.
This was a new twist on the gratitude practice which by now has become a well honed habit for me. So I began to try it and by gum, she is right. Once you dive into this practice it is simple to find new things every day to be thankful for.
Another friend said we also have to be thankful for those things that aren’t so great but that lead us to a new understanding, or a new experience or a new perspective. And she is right as well. Being thankful for our challenges is harder, much harder, but a great practice. I have found that giving thanks for problems, worries and challenges, while hard, helps to lighten them somehow and I often find I see new opportunities within them as I bless them and say a humble “thank you”.
There is much written about gratitude these days but how grateful are you? What is your gratitude practice and how faithful are you to it? Do you give thanks only when things go your way? Or are you able to accept your troubles as teachers and way finders?
Understanding the power and wisdom of a gratitude practice will lead you to a new reality. If you don’t do it already, begin each day with a litany of things you give thanks for that day. And continue throughout the day as you recognize your blessings, however small. I promise you your life will change.
“Gratitude is an opener of locked up blessings.” ~ Marianne Williamson
“Most of the greatest speeches I have ever given, have been in the dedicated silence of my actions.” ~ Steve Maraboli
“Gratitude turns what we have into enough.” ~unknown
“If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, “thank you,” that would suffice.” ~Meister Eckhart
“Praise the bridge that carried you over.” ~George Colman
“The struggle ends when the gratitude begins.” ~Neale Donald Walsch
“If you want to turn your life around, try thankfulness. It will change your life mightily.” ~Gerald Good
There are a lot of articles and books being written lately about gratitude which is a good thing. So why is it that so many people complain and gripe about their lives? I do not exclude myself from this although I am far better at taking a gripe and turning it into gratitude than I used to be.
My fabulous husband and I just got home from an evening out with a dear friend who is European by birth. Her father was in Auschwitz during WWII. She came here to the USA with $20 in her pocket, no job, and unable to speak English. From there she has worked her way up to being a multi-millionaire. Her life has been full of challenges and tragedies and things that didn’t work out. It has also been full of hard work, achievement, and financial benefits from all that hard work.
What is so cool about this lady is she never ever complains. She is always thinking of ways to help others, ways to make her life better, ways to promote others, ways to network and raise up everyone around her, including our little waitress tonight from Romania. She took the time to talk to her and gave her her cell number so she could introduce her to some kids her age so she wouldn’t be so lonely. Our friend remembers what it is like to be in a foreign country at a young age knowing no one.
She spent the whole evening talking about new plans for a new project, about her son and his plans, about how she is going to introduce to this person and that person and why she wants to make those connections. We both came home with a warm glow being with someone who is so positive, kind, generous and yes, full of gratitude.
She could just as easily be whining about why life didn’t treat her better, why things didn’t get handed to her, etc. etc. etc. But she doesn’t. I hope that I can be like her, always looking at the bright silver lining in every cloud, and exploding into rainbows of joy when things unfold. Gratitude begets gratitude begets gratitude and soon our whole lives will be brimming with joy!
Seems to me we could all use a big dose of gratitude these days when things seem so challenging. I think I will choose gratitude today over despair, worry, frustration, anger, and any other negative emotion that comes my way.