Gratitude. A visiting scholar from UC Davis, Dr. Robert Emmons, made two presentations at my school last week about gratitude and its power upon our lives.
Gratitude is an expression of thanks to someone or something for a benefit given to us, which we did not deserve or earn. Regularly reflecting on gratitude (an activity as simple as keeping a journal, and each night writing down 5 things for which we were grateful that day) has well-documented positive effects on our lives, moods, actions, and health.
Sing to the LORD with thanksgiving;
make music to our God upon the harp.
God covers the heavens with clouds,
prepares rain for the earth,
makes grass grow on the hills.
God gives food to flocks and herds,
and to the young ravens when they cry.
Gratitude is an important part of our Biblical tradition. If the creation stories of the Bible don’t tell us exactly how the earth was made, they do tell us one important thing: we didn’t make it ourselves. Neither did we do anything to deserve the earth and its richness. We are not entitled to it – we are privileged to enjoy it.
I had a moment of gratitude last weekend. My housemates and I were on retreat, and picnicked by Limantour Beach. We set up a picnic blanket in a relatively grassy spot surrounded by wild douglas irises. We had some oranges, a loaf of bread, almond butter, and two jams. One jam was from Trader Joe’s (blackberry preserves). The other was an apricot preserve. It was made by the elderly mother of an SFTS professor, who harvested the apricot tree in the backyard, sliced, cooked, and canned dozens of jars, and gave us some as a gift. Both jams were delicious. However, only one elicited feelings of gratitude. I was entitled to the blackberry, because I handed a few dollars to the clerk at TJ’s. I had no such claim on Grandma Betty’s Apricot Special.
What are you grateful for today?
What have you received as a gift?
...and I wonder what life would be like if we did less buying and selling, and more giving and receiving.