I believe we need only one thing to live in gratitude and appreciation. That one thing is our ability to allow the present moment to unfold just as it is. The simple willingness to look and listen is all we need to open up to whole new worlds of possibility. When that expanded vision arises in us, we cannot help but give joyful thanks.
My first experience of this shift in awareness came when I was 7 years old. My sister had just died, and there was much sadness in our family. I remember walking with my dad through a forest on the slopes of a mountain we often visited on family outings. It was late summer, and my father picked hazelnuts from the bushes and fed them to me. His tender gesture of love transported me to a timeless place of light and safety. I felt a tremendous sense of well-being, and what I experienced in that moment has stayed with me ever since. It propelled me on the spiritual journey that led eventually into ministry.
What happened that summer day? I was simply present, without expectation, to that moment and to my dad’s actions. A shift in my awareness opened me to appreciate the love and healing happening around me. Looking back, I see that the grief that followed my sister’s death may actually have made that moment more intense. Everything conspires, it seems, to help us realize the fragile magnificence of our lives.
I have also felt inspired in the presence of those who appreciate every moment, no matter what the experience is. At the beginning of my conscious spiritual journey, I met a man who had overcome advanced cancer by giving thanks for everything. When the car engine started, he would declare, “Thank You, God!” As the sun rose, “Thank You, God!” Even if he faced a challenge, his response still was “Thank You, God!”
I was not in the habit of appreciating everything so keenly, and I was quite startled by his approach. It did, though, get my attention. I began to understand that thoughts held in mind, and words vocalized, do indeed have power to change our lives. Overcoming cancer is impressive, but what struck me more was this person’s genuine happiness. I wanted some of that joy too!
Thankfully, as the saying goes, it is never too late to begin. We may have been absent to the universe, but the universe has never been absent to us. The minute we look around us with natural curiosity, the moment we attune ourselves and listen without judgment, we open up to spacious new vistas.
Sometimes we may miss these moments. We overlook them on our way to something we consider more meaningful. To become aware, we slow down, look, and listen to what is present right now. Such is the hidden splendor of God’s universe that, if we can just be for a few minutes, rich spiritual rewards await us.
Do you remember a time when a seemingly ordinary, even mundane, event took on greater significance because you were fully present to it? Did it spark a sense of gratitude that arose spontaneously from within?
The immortal words of Paul in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 remind us to “give thanks in all circumstances.” That means being grateful for whatever happens. If we live by that standard, we will be transformed.
Begin today. Notice the clouds and the changing light as your day progresses. Look into a friend’s eyes as you share a meal or a conversation together. Be open to adventure at the checkout line or in traffic. A kindness shared and a courtesy offered may move you, without fail, into your rightful place of generosity, gratitude, and joy, which are your true nature. Yes, only one thing is required, and it is available to you right now!