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!