This is the season of joy and gratitude. Although joy and gratitude are emphasized in a special way at this time of year, they are elements of life that should be a part of who we are throughout the year. Joy is something that is difficult to define. It is a spiritual feeling that is experienced and cannot be predicted or practiced. It happens, and we are grateful for those times when it does happen, filling our hearts and our spirits with an experience of love that is transformational. Gratitude, however, is something that we can practice, and it can become an essential part of our day-to-day lives.
I am convinced that gratitude is the heart of spirituality. It is the link between giving and receiving. I believe that gratitude is one of the most important things that we can share with others. Recently I received a card of gratitude that has lifted my spirits ever since I received it. Gratitude is powerful medicine that contributes to human health, happiness, and social connection. People who keep regular "gratitude Journals" report an increase in alertness, energy, enthusiasm, better sleep, higher levels of happiness, and a sense of well-being. Scientists have proven that initiating even a single contact with someone towards who you feel grateful influences mood that can last for weeks.
One of the things that I like best about living in Cincinnati is that almost everyone I meet is ready to converse. I find that a simple trip to Kroger’s can turn into a wonderful time of connecting with others. One of my favorite opportunities to converse is the check-out line when I swipe my card and we all wait for a couple of seconds before the machine lights up and says "approved." I love that moment, and I usually say to the person checking out my groceries, “isn’t it great to be approved?” This usually begins a very nice exchange of how important it is to encourage one another and to say thank you.
I suggest that those two words—thank you—are two of the most significant words in the English language. My friend Mark Minear, my colleague in leading the Sacred Chaos seminars for religious leaders in transition, has said, “Gratitude is the most important thing we can express to help us grow spiritually.” I agree.
During this season of joy and gratitude, I encourage you to find someone to thank every day. If we can do this throughout this season, perhaps it will become a part of our lives throughout the year.