Once again we come into the month of November and prepare ourselves for the day set aside for Thanksgiving, a day of gratitude. It is my most favorite holiday because of a decision I made some time ago that gratitude was to become an important spiritual discipline and I love being mindful of that decision by having a national holiday built around that very theme. I also confess to a fairly serious addiction to pumpkin pie and late afternoon football, so the whole day just fares well for me in general.
As I work on my spiritual discipline of gratitude I am reminded of a quote by Albert Einstein. The great scientist once said, “There are two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” I like the sentiment and in gratitude, I seek to live my life in the latter mode, as though everything is a miracle. It isn’t easy. Often there are things that do not seem at all like miracles. Instead, they seem mundane and ordinary, disappointing, and not very interesting. But if I choose to live life with grateful intention, if I choose to live a life practicing the art of gratitude, then following Einstein’s equation and seeing all of life as a miracle is a good foundation with which to start.
I once officiated at a funeral for a man who lived to be ninety-nine. In all of his years, he chose to see life as beautiful and new and miraculous. I remember hearing from his wife how he would see a flower or a sunset and would say, “Would you look at that?” and “Isn’t that something?” It was as if he was seeing a flower or a sunset for the very first time. His wife laughed when she told this story to me, laughed and then wept. “He was like a child in that way,” she said. “He taught me how to see the world.”
Gratitude isn’t just being thankful for the good things in our lives. It isn’t just being thoughtful, having manners, and writing notes of thanks for the things others do for us. It isn’t even a litany of gifts that we list in a prayer for which we say thanks. I think gratitude is more than counting our blessings and naming them one by one. I think gratitude is a mindset, a way of encountering the world, a complete way of life. You can either see a day as a miracle, the flowers and sunsets as new and breathtaking, or you can take the stance that a day is nothing very special at all. I’m working on living life like the ninety-nine year old man who kept his child-like way of seeing the world. Who knows, maybe with a little help from Einstein I’ll get to that mindset eventually. And trust me, if that happens, there’s my first miracle, right there.