Yesterday, I attended the evening portion of my church’s camp retreat at our denomination’s campground out in the country in our little swath of the Midwest. I had a chance to be out in nature, where my cell phone had no reception and I was able to just recharge my soul in the company of others. There is often a calm that cannot seemed to be grasped anywhere else. Even as storms gently rolled across the pastures and soybean and cornfields in the distance, there was a sereneness that cannot be comprehended anywhere else.
One of the things that we did in our together time last night as a small group was talk about gratitude. What are we grateful for? And how can we show that gratitude?
The dictionary defines gratitude as “the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.” Gratitude can be an emotion. It can be a virtue. It can be a behavior. It can be a trait. It is something I try to work on when I can.
Let me look at the three parts of that definition again……
I am thankful.
I try to count my blessings every day, not just around the holiday of Thanksgiving. It’s a practice that was ingrained in me around my college years. Like yesterday, I was thankful for the time I was able to spend in nature and the fellowship of the friends that were there. I was grateful to have time to just contemplate, surrounded by trees and prairie grasses, the wind blowing whisps of hair across my face as I thought.
I am thankful for the village that has been created around me. I am thankful for the two feline furballs that “own” me and help me keep my sanity. I am thankful for a full time job that allows me to make ends meet (and even save a little) so that I can focus on writing in my free time. I am thankful for the things i have and the relatively good health I am in.
Even in my writing, I am thankful. I am thankful for the ability to pen words together in a way that makes sense to others. I am grateful for the ability to use my writing to help better even a small corner of the world. I am appreciative for those who have encouraged me in my writing. I appreciate the ones who send me messages saying they’ve shared my stories elsewhere. I am grateful for the ones who have read my books. I am especially grateful for those who take the time to write reviews.
I show appreciation.
I thank people, sometimes more than I need to. My co-workers will tell you that I constantly thank them for helping me. I make a point of thanking others, even when it may not be needed. I try to respond to every message of “hey, I read your book” with some sort of appreciation. And I mean every single thank you. I mean every single word of recognition I utter or type. I mean every note and gift I give in return.
I return kindness
It’s the returning kindness part I am still working on. I have learned to review books I read for others, returning the kindness that I have received or paying it forward. I spread the word about family and friends’ achievements as warranted. I write thank you letters and cards of love to those who need them. I try to pass on words of encouragement when needed and do my “happy dance” for others as much as I do for myself. When the other half tells me he has had x amount of listens on his podcast, I tell him he’s awesome.
I am still learning to be kind to everyone. It’s something I am sure I will be working on the rest of my life.
We could all use a bit more gratitude in this world. It is, after all, part of the magic of our stories. It is what keeps some of us going. And whether it is an emotion, a virtue, a trait, or a behavior to emulate, it is something I will keep striving for, just as I keep striving to write my stories and hold on to magic. For it is how it should be.
So thank you, dear readers, if you have read this far. I really do appreciate each and every one of you and I am grateful for your love, your support, your comments, your shares and your own stories.
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