Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts. And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. [Ephesians 5:18b-20 (NLT)]
For once, the magazines in the doctor’s office weren’t several months old and I read an article about New Year’s traditions. One family has a “gratitude jar” that gets filled with little notes of thanks all year long. New Year’s Eve, they take out the year’s slips of paper and read the messages. New Year’s Day, they start their year of gratitude all over with an empty jar.
What sort of notes might go in a gratitude jar? There might ones written in thanks for finding things: the baby’s “binky” or favorite blanket, the car keys, or the money to pay the mortgage. There certainly would be “thank you” notes for things received: smiles, technical assistance that spoke English, a raise, or an extra hour to finish a project. There might be thanks for the ability to give: blood to the blood bank, food to the food pantry, an opportunity to a deserving person, or good advice to a friend. Gratitude would probably be expressed for the various people in our lives: exterminators, trash collectors, skilled surgeons, compassionate hospice volunteers, helpful sales associates, or a loving spouse. In all likelihood, there’d be thanks for one’s accomplishments and those of others: not burning the holiday pies, surviving chemo, a good report card, first place in the tournament, or finally learning how to use Adobe Photoshop. Thanks would probably be given for those moments that take away our breath: a roseate spoonbill feeding in the swamp, making a grand slam in bridge, a double rainbow or the green flash at sunset. Notes of thanks might be written for finding the right words to say: the perfectly executed joke, comforting words to a new widow, encouraging words to a child, or a heartfelt apology. In addition, there would be thanks for words heard, words like “I forgive you,” “Instead of a ticket, I’ll let you off with a warning,” “Good job,” or “I love you.” It’s likely that thanks would be given for various departures: the computer problems, the ants, the case of shingles, or the trip to Disneyland. Of course, there would also be thanks for arrivals: grandchildren visiting, the son who returned safely home, spring daffodils, or a new baby. Gratitude would likely be given for events that took place: a graduation, Bible study or the neighborhood potluck. There would also be thanks for incidents that didn’t happen: heart surgery, getting “downsized,” or being hit by the car that ran the red light. Perhaps there would be notes of thanks for surviving an experience: the terrible twos, a nasty case of the flu or a visit from the in-laws. There might be messages giving thanks for warm blankets and purring cats, fireflies on a summer night, comfy shoes, a mother’s hug, lazy days, a child’s giggle, or even new magazines in the doctor’s waiting room. I don’t know the size of the gratitude jar belonging to the family about which I read; I know I’d need a huge one!
New Year’s resolutions are made and broken every year. Perhaps the best way to start this year is to start with the determination to look for our blessings and offer thanks for them daily. Although keeping a gratitude journal or filling a gratitude jar with notes of thanks isn’t necessary, they might help make us more mindful of the many blessings (both large and small) we receive. The notes will also make good reading come next New Year’s Eve!
Happy New Year, dear friends. May 2015 be filled with a multitude of both blessings and gratitude.
Give us, O Lord, thankful hearts which never forget your goodness to us. Give us, O Lord, grateful hearts, which do not waste time complaining. [St. Thomas Aquinas]