Giving Thanks, a New take on an Old Theme

At some point in my spiritual journey I abandoned bowing my head and giving thanks for the meal I was about to consume. The whole process seemed hopelessly out of date. Wasn’t it based on some simplistic version of God as an old benevolent guy with a beard? But somewhere along the same path (it is interesting to note that we can abandon and renew the same processes for different reasons) that I learned that giving thanks need not be directed at a vague concept of an anthropomorphic God. Gratitude is something very basic to our culture, to most cultures. We express gratitude to someone for doing us a service. We teach our children this idea when they are very little.

When I look at the plate before me, I am grateful that I have a full amount of food to eat. Millions of people don’t have that luxury today, and millions won’t tomorrow. I am thankful that I live in a comfortable house, where weather and temperature are not an enemy but an inconvenience.  My gratitude stems from my circumstance. Whether that means I am blessed or lucky is a conversation for another time. That my children are healthy and happy has less to do with a good work ethic and intelligence than circumstances of my birth. But I am still grateful. And ultimately gratitude is a practice. You practice removing yourself as the center of the universe in this practice. It is a reminder that when I eat, and my children eat, that this is not the only option for everyone. I am hoping that with time this gratitude will extend into other areas of my life. That in my gratitude for the very small things that I could easily take for granted, I will learn to appreciate the bigger events and people in my life. The practice of thankfulness will exercise the gratitude muscle.

I don’t practice gratitude every time I sit down to eat. But it wouldn’t be a bad thing if I did.

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