The Joy of Living Gratefully 11/20/2016
Good evening. My name is Dan Taylor. I’m a member of St. Anne’s parish.
I wish I could say that I live gratefully every day, but, unfortunately that isn’t true yet. I still have a long way to go before I can say that. But there are moments – just little hints of grace that come to me from time to time - when I’m reminded that everything I call “mine”... my wife, my kids, my town, my country, my church, and even my own life – all of these things that I call “mine”, they’re all actually gifts that I never earned and I hardly deserve. In those moments it is easy to see that gratitude is the one truly appropriate response to everything in life.
In those moments when I see everything as a gift, it puts the world into a perspective that makes it impossible for me to be angry or resentful or jealous. It’s like I’ve stepped back from it all to see this great, elaborate performance where all the actors are ad-libbing – there are no scripts – they’re just doing the best they can with the circumstances they’re in. Seeing this way makes me empathize so much more with people who have been given less, sometimes far less, than I’ve been given. It allows me to understand why some people act the way they do, even though I don’t think it’s right. It gives me patience with my kids (and God knows I need all I can get) and helps me find that right way of explaining why they need to put on a coat, or why they have to help their mother, instead of just saying “Because I said so!”
And in those moments, I can also see clearly that, no matter how bad things seem, they can always, always be worse.
I believe it’s the Holy Spirit that speaks to me at those times. Itself, another gift! And when He does, and I see the world through that lens, there is joy to be found everywhere.
If I try to think about the inverse of “the joy of living gratefully”, I come up with “the misery of living in disappointment.” This is the misery where I think “I’m owed”... I deserve this and you owe me that. I worked hard, I spent my time and my money, I expended effort and love... I should get something back for all that. When you think about it, it’s obvious that living that way will almost always be disappointing. Especially if everyone else is living that way, too. Who can keep track of all that credit and debt?
I know I have trouble keeping the first of those two opposing worldviews in mind. It’s very easy to slip into the second even though I don’t want to... I have hope that God will help me, will help all of us, get better at hearing his little hints of grace, and so experience more of the joy of living gratefully.