Gratitude, Living in Reality

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Gratitude, a lens to see

Gratitude. Depending on what’s going on today, the word may bring a sigh of contented knowing or sheer exasperation. Perhaps most simply put, gratitude is the acknowledgement of the good. Just as photographers speak of capturing images as providing a new lens to see the world, so gratitude lived give us a framework for experiencing life.

Examining experiences, searching for gratitude

One of my sisters has a gratitude blog and recently asked me to write a guest post on an experience I had had. “Of course!” was my off-hand reply – and then I tried to write it. Turns out I wasn’t so grateful for that experience after all; in fact I was rather dissatisfied, if not downright angry. Interesting. It wasn’t until I engaged in the process of intentionally trying to be grateful, and examining the experience through that lens that I could recognize the dissonance between what I wanted to see and feel, and what I was actually experiencing.

Living in reality

Becoming conscious of the tension between what we want to experience and the reality can be an invaluable indication of potential need and an opportunity for growth. Is there something that needs to be changed in me; a logistical adjustment to be made; an interpersonal issue that has gone unaddressed for too long? Consciously trying to live gratitude also means acknowledging the reality of a situation (both interiorly and exteriorly), changing what we can, accepting and letting go of what is beyond our control.

Seeing, examining, acknowledging

Understood in this light, gratitude is a way of seeing, examining, and acknowledging. The paradigm of living gratitude fails when I stop seeing, stop examining, and stop acknowledging the truth of a situation. Take for example our parishioners. In what ways have we stopped seeing them? Where have we stopped examining what is working for them, and what isn’t? When did we stop, or did we ever begin, to acknowledge their efforts to be engaged in the parish?

Celebrating the daily victories

A new online giving signup, a parishioner who creates a profile, or updates their information in My Own Church, perhaps small in the great scheme of things, but are these not the seeds of engagement that could flourish with a little love and care? How are we acknowledging these little victories? Even something as simple as a “thank you!” phone call can brighten someone’s day, watering the seed of parish engagement, and setting the groundwork for future growth.

Grounding our practice of gratitude in the often mundane happenings of everyday work and life will not only open doors to future opportunity, but more importantly, open us to the joy and possibility of the present moment.

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