November 18, 2009 // Uncategorized

The attitude of gratitude

November always brings several things to mind. It has traditionally been a time when we pray for those who have gone before us and give thanks for the ordinary saints, living and deceased, who have touched our lives. We also celebrate Thanksgiving, which is supposed to be the favorite holiday of most Americans.

Every time I go to a wake or funeral — and I have been to many lately — and hear the beautiful comments made about the persons who died, I cannot help but wonder how many of those things were said to that person when he or she was alive?

Recently I wrote a eulogy about one of our sisters who was a good friend of mine. Many people expressed that she was one of the most generous and caring persons they had ever known. She often anticipated others needs and was always willing to go the extra mile for others even when she may not have felt so well herself.

As I delivered the words at her wake service I hoped that she really knew how much she was loved and appreciated. My fantasy was that she was looking down from heaven surprised at just how much people cared about her and wondered why they hadn’t expressed how grateful they were for her when she was alive.

It is experiences such as these that continue to remind me of the importance of living a life of gratitude — gratitude to God for all of his gifts, especially for the people who have touched my life.

Often I have written about the people of Uganda, East Africa, who have the tradition of thanking others — and God — for every thing in their lives, from giving thanks for a new day to thanking others for listening to them or smiling at them. I heard about this custom many years ago from one of our Holy Cross sisters who ministers to the people in Uganda and it impressed me so much that I have never forgotten it.

The Ugandan people are a reminder to me of the importance of being a grateful person and to show and voice my love and appreciation of the people and gifts in my life. It is all too easy to take others and our blessings for granted.

November is a good time to think about and pray for all those people, living and dead, who have touched our lives. And for those who are still amongst the living, to make an effort to tell them how much we appreciate them and thank God for however they have touched our lives. Let’s not be one of those people who have regrets because they did not express their love and gratitude to others before they died. And don’t limit this expression of appreciation to family and friends. It might be good to reflect on the last time you thanked those who clean your classroom or office, the policeman on the corner or the cashier in a store.

We also have a built-in opportunity during this time of the year when we celebrate Thanksgiving to reflect on the gifts we have received and how we do or don’t share them. Periodically it is good to be reminded that everything we have and are is gift — God’s pure gift to us. None of us did anything to deserve them. These gifts, no matter how great or small, are to be shared. Jesus tells us not to hide our light under a bushel basket.

I truly believe that the world would be a much friendlier place if each of us would show our gratitude regularly, like the people from Uganda, and use our gifts to build God’s kingdom.

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