I’m coming to understand that the key to living a life that is a joy instead of a drudgery is the element of gratitude. I believe that as a species, humankind is, by nature and by practice, an ungrateful lot. Dostoevsky, writing about humanity in his Notes from the Underground, says “If he is not stupid, he is monstrously ungrateful! Phenomenally ungrateful. In fact, I believe that the best definition of man is the ungrateful biped.”
The purpose of this musing is not to instruct readers on how to be grateful, or why we ought to be grateful. This post is my own personal exercise in cultivating an attitude of gratitude.
The image behind this post’s title is of my desk at home, which I am currently seated behind. It is early morning, my time to read and reflect about my faith and my life. The topic is gratitude, and as I meditate on what that means and how to be more grateful, for some reason my attention became focused on my desk. It looks this morning like it always looks, but today, I realized that the items situated on my desk could provide a great foundation from which to cultivate a grateful heart. Let me share with you what’s on my desk, and why these items prompt me toward gratitude.
This is my Bible, my current source of devotional guidance, and my journal. This represents my relationship with God, which is the foundation for my gratitude. I know what Peter means when he writes, “Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” The mercy and acceptance I have received from God has completely transformed my life and my world. For that I am profoundly grateful.
These three items represent my parents. The picture is my Poppa, the glass was my mom’s favorite decorative piece (it contains the image of a hummingbird, which was her favorite), and the scarecrow is a pottery piece that sat on my parents’ mantle until they both died. Although they are but inanimate figures, my parents are alive and present in my heart when I look at these. I’m seeing them through the eyes of gratitude this morning.
This is one of the few picture I have of my entire immediate family. This picture was taken on my son Sean’s wedding day. I get misty looking at this picture. These are the human beings that mean the most to me. These are my people, my family. So many people have no pictures like this, because they have no family. Gratitude.
I snapped this picture at sunset over Lake Howard in Winter Haven, Florida, where I live. It was Saturday night, my wife and I had just finished dinner together, and on our way home, we stopped to watch the sunset. The weather was perfect, and this photo captures a magic moment in time. When I see it, I see don’t just see the sun going down. I remember the breeze. I remember how beautiful my wife looked. And when I remember those things, I feel grateful.
It’s one thing to scan the contents of my desk, and in a moment of nostalgia, feel a tinge of gratitude because of what I’ve been given. But it’s something else entirely to become a man who practices gratitude as a discipline. I want gratitude to be a daily and intentional act- a conscious choice. That’s my goal.