If the only prayer you ever say in your whole life is “thank you,” that would suffice.
It snowed recently; a total of two feet in 24 hours. At one point, I ventured outside: pink snow boots, an aged military green parka with missing buttons, my balaclava, thick gloves, and a letter that needed to be mailed. I’m sure I was quite a sight to behold – all that could be seen of my face were eyes squinting against the bitterly cold wind, as I trudged half a mile to the mail drop. Passing cars threatened to splash icy cold snow melt on me and still I trudged on – toes and fingers growing increasingly numb.
On my walk, I paused to photograph snow covered trees and shrubs – fumbling with the camera, cold air warming itself in my lungs. I wanted the slippery, windy walk to be over and I wanted to stay present in the moment watching the landscape change, collecting flakes on my gloves and being entranced by the very day itself. It was a moment to practice gratitude: for a warm home, adequate clothing, health and strength, beauty, the hot cup of tea that I would make once I returned to my home and for a faith that invites me to see myself as a part of this complex web of life. A faith that invites me to participate in this web with responsibility and reverence.
In the midst of the throng and crush of fall, it often feels like there is little to be thankful for. We rush from one very important activity to the next very important activity – each crucial, time sensitive and demanding our attention. Whether it’s mid-terms, work, church, or attending to relationships – it may be dealing with the mishaps of a stolen car, beloved treasure, or the ending of an intimate relationship – all significant and yet without pausing we run the risk of losing ourselves in the flurry of activity. We run the risk of not hearing our still small voice within.
As I trudged home, slipping and working hard to avoid large puddles of icy water, I was reminded of a youth in my youth group who shared that she’d learned the value of taking 10 minutes a day to slow down and give thanks. I was reminded of the book Sleeping with Bread: Holding What Gives You Life. In this short text, Dennis, Sheila, and Matthew Linn ask us to create a practice of examining what gives us life by simply asking and answering:
For what moment today am I most grateful?
For what moment today am I least grateful?
When today did I have the greatest sense of belonging to myself, other, God, the universe?
When did I have the least sense of belonging?
Maybe over meals with family and friends…maybe alone in the presence of a lit candle…maybe practicing consciously in the transition from one activity to the next…maybe just before sleep claims you for the night, consider making the space for yourself to hear where you feel connected, thankful, and truly joyful. Keep a journal of your response.
Ask: what moment am I most grateful for? In the presence of yourself or with others, this can remind you of the sources of love and support in your life. To ask yourself what you’re least grateful for, can remind you of what you have the capacity to begin to change.
Ask: when did I have the greatest sense of belonging to myself, other, God, the universe? And give yourself the gift of listening and attending to the response.
May you be well,
Program Coordinator for Multicultural Congregations
Identity Based Ministries and The Office of Racial and Ethnic Concerns