Instructions on Gratitude
by David Steindl-Rast, OSB
Whatever is given is a gift—even the most difficult experiences can be seen as wake-up calls and therefore gifts. And the appropriate response to any gift is gratitude. Here are four small gestures that can help you show gratitude and stay awake and aware.
- All gratitude expresses trust. Mobilize the courage of your heart, as the truly awake ones are doing. Say one word today that gives a fearful person courage.
- Because gratitude expresses courage, it spreads calm. Join the truly compassionate ones who are calm and strong. From the stillness of your heart's core reach out. Calmly hold someone's hand today and spread calm.
- When you are grateful, your heart is open—open towards others, open for surprise. During big wake-up calls in your life, or in our collective lives, we often see remarkable examples of openness: strangers helping strangers often in heroic ways. Make contact with people whom you normally ignore—eye-contact at least—with the agent at the toll booth, the parking lot attendant, someone on the elevator. Look a stranger in the eyes today and realize that there are no strangers.
- You can feel either grateful or alienated, but never both at the same time. Gratefulness drives out alienation; there is not room for both in the same heart. When you are grateful you know that you belong to a network of give-and-take and you say "yes" to that belonging. This "yes" is the essence of love. You need no words to express it; a smile will do to put your "yes" into action. Don't let it matter to you whether or not the other one smiles back. Give someone an unexpected smile today and so contribute your share to peace on earth.