by Rev. Dr. Daniel C. Wilburn
Lakeland people were charged with writing a word of gratitude on a Post-It each day and posting it on the kitchen wall. I think it was a success in our house. With four of us we finally had to stand on a chair to post the final few days of gratitude Post-Its.
Did it work?
We were supposed to be more reflective during Lent, pause and consider life and be grateful. Here’s what I found telling about our lives. We were grateful for mundane things, and we were often repetitive. The weather and food were most common gratitude subjects. “Nice weather” “Taco Bell” topped the list. Lacrosse, friends, clouds, birds, mac cheese, french fries, shoes, and warm stuff were common. Either we are not very creative or thoughtful or these common things are actually the stuff for which we are really grateful. Life is small.
Was this not Jesus’ intent when he said,
“Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?”
Gratitude is for the most common of life’s observations. Meaningfulness is found in the littlest of things. This is the idea of mindfulness (secular and religious). And it works. We learn not to take ourselves too serious. We learn to pay attention to little things and everything.
Too bad modernization, suburbia, globalization, media, and public debate and discourse distracts us from a grateful heart. As Henri Nouwen noticed 30 years ago compulsions, chaos, and competition are the fuel of hell on earth (my paraphrase). We are too driven and therefore, drive by the small things too fast to be grateful and thus at peace.
I often think about accounts of people who lived beyond 100 years when they are asked ‘So what is the secret to a long life?’ and they all answer, “Well, I just lived a simple life.” Some smoked. Some ate pounds of red meat and butter each week. Most were rural. Usually they walked everywhere. Compulsions, chaos, and competition – they are the real killers of life – both life in the body and spiritual life.
I don’t think we will continue to be grateful without some habit of gratitude and reflection. Today it was sad to take down all the Post-its. It is as though I knew we will be sucked back into busyness. I just left one Post-It, high up on the wall, out of reach: “He is risen.”