A Christian Science perspective: The giving that gratitude inspires.
Those are wonderful words to hear, and even better when we have cause to utter them ourselves. But the best of all is when we so truly appreciate the good in our lives that it becomes a call to action – when we are moved to do something.
One couple in Washington, D.C., is doing exactly that. Gratitude for what they had prompted them to start a small charity that gives back to the community. This year, they distributed six new tents to replace the cardboard shelters previously used by some of the city’s residents.
When interviewed about their donation, the gentleman shared that he grew up in tough circumstances, one of 12 children. He promised himself that if he ever made something of himself that he’d give others a helping hand. Clearly his deep gratitude for the good he recognizes as having come into his own life has prompted this man, who works as a sanitation engineer, or garbage collector, to give to others (“Meet the mystery angel protecting D.C.’s homeless,” The Washington Post).
Some might think they don’t have enough to warrant being grateful. But gratitude isn’t something that should or can be reserved for some day when we have everything the world tells us we should want. Rather, it is the very appreciation for what may seem to others as insignificant that adds such richness to life and changes the whole tenor of how one lives.
I have found that giving my consent to be grateful multiplies the effect of good in my life. At its root, gratitude is simply, and magnificently, an awakening to the good that is already present – to the eternal “things which are not seen” (II Corinthians 4:18). As we begin to watch for this spiritual good, and accept it, amazing details in our days sparkle and take on new meaning.
In my study of Christian Science I have discovered that gratitude is innate to our being. It is a rejoicing, a quality of God that is native to each of us. And when we open this door in our thought, even a crack, the Christ – the full expression of God – enters in, expanding our recognition of the ever-presence of good. The abundance of God-endowed existence already is the fact of spiritual being. Gratitude acts to shake off the cobwebs in thought and allows us to see the infinite, all-inclusive nature of our being.
So, what would keep us from feeling grateful? Too often we get tricked into comparing ourselves to others, or fall into the trap of believing that in order to feel fulfilled we need all the “things” that are forever paraded in front of us. The thought is that acquiring things, or fabulous human experiences, will bring us satisfaction. Yet this sense of acquiring happiness only leads to an escalating, unsatisfying appetite for those things.
Instead we each have the right and authority to lay claim to gratitude now, and respond to this feeling right where we are and in the circumstance we find ourselves in today. Gratitude for what is truly good prompts us to give in response.
Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of this publication, encountered many struggles, including financial difficulties. Yet she was forever giving of what she did have – healing ideas from God, which not only blessed individuals in her time, but thousands of others since then. In her writings, where she is discussing prayer, she says: “Gratitude is much more than a verbal expression of thanks. Action expresses more gratitude than speech” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 3).
When Mrs. Eddy correlates prayer with gratitude, she notes that true gratitude is expressed in action. This always reminds me that when I think I need something, I can begin by opening my heart to gratitude and allow this deeply felt appreciation to prompt my gifts to others – whether through embracing the world in prayer, or through physical acts of generosity.
Gratitude. It’s an amazing thing! It warms the heart and enables us to see the good that is already present. And this expanding awareness awakens in us the opportunities to do something for others – helping them witness the abundant good that is, in fact, ever present for all.