Today, I said goodbye to an old friend, someone who has been in my life for 15 years and has walked with me through my transition from the pulpit to the outpatient offiice. My friend was my biggest cheerleader other than my wife. When he first met me and asked me which church I had served and I told him, he rolled his eyes and asked me why they sent me there. In these words, he echoed what other pastors said about that appointment. I knew I found someone special in the way he handled that first conversation.
The spiritual practice of gratitude is a state of mind and a way of life. In the Christian New Testament, in the book of James, you can find these thoughts regarding gratitude: “every good give and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with which whom there is no variation or shadow due to change”(James 1:17, ESV). “The generosity of God in sharing the goodness of creation with us can eliscit only one possible response – that of gratitude”(Esther De Waal quoted in To Everything a Season by Bonnie Thurston). In the ancient world, whether it is from the Abrahamic religions or the Indic Religions or even some of the different native tradtions around the globe, gratefulness is often seen as a core tenet of worship/spiritual practices.
As I compose this blog this afternoon, I am grateful for all my friend taught me and his grace that he offered in letting me explore my faith and my teaching abilities in his Sunday morning classes. When I was still preaching and doing the few funerals that I was part of, I used to talk about death being the end of new meaning. Meaning then was created only when you created a connection with someone. The connection with my friend was one of mutuality and respect, but for me anyways, as a student.
Cultivating a practice of gratitude will change the way you orient yourself to the world. I am reminded of course of Thomas Mertons mystical expereince in St. Louis when he realized the interconnectednes he had with all the people around him. I had a similar experience many years ago when I started my own practice of gratitude.
It was a long Friday, I had seen 8 or 9 clients and I was tired. I had to go grocery shopping and the shopping list was not as prepared as I would have liked. I was annoyed. As I was pushing cart along the meat aisle, little boy ran in front of my cart and I almost hit him. His mother scooped him up and apologized. In this moment, instead of irritation, I just saw a little boy doing what little kids do, and I smiled, I found myself grateful for a distraction from my own inner world of weariness and irritation. From this point on, I would make a conscious effort to offer a blessing or a bow of compassion when leaving someone, whether it be a client, my kids or the cashier at the grocery store. In doing so, I found the interconnectedness that Merton was talking about.
Practicing gratitude works:
1. Shifts perspective
2. Allows us to focus on what is right instead of what is wrong.
Gratitude is the state of mind of thankfulness. God speed, Ted.
Theodore G. “Ted” Cole, age 79, of Mill Village, passed away on Sunday, January 15, 2023. He was born June 19, 1943, to the late Lawrence and Adda Cole.