When I was a kid, my family would visit my grandparents a couple of times a year. At meal times we would wait for everyone to sit at the table and someone would say grace. I don’t remember details, but I think we held hands and that grace involved thanking God for our food. I remember thinking that God probably had less to do with of our meal than people, the sun and the earth. I also remember thinking that it was nice that we waited for everyone and that it made the meal into more of an event and that even as a kid, I liked the time for reflection.
When I graduated with my Bachelor of Science, the speaker asked all the graduates to stand, turn around and thank their parents (who were assumed to be in the audience) for their support by applauding them. As a mature aged student, my parents weren’t there, I had a couple of friends instead. Anyway, I turned around and at that moment I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude. Not for my friends, nor for my parents, but for the opportunity to be standing there. For most of my undergraduate degree, I was a single parent and was financially supported, at least in part, by government benefits. The fact that I got to go to university while raising preschool and school-aged children on my own and that I didn’t have to worry too much about money, is something I will always be grateful for.
At some point in my early adult life I realised that gratitude is a useful emotion. I have experienced some very, very tough times and feeling grateful for what I did have was a useful way of shifting my focus. I don’t remember if I intentionally started a habit of being grateful, but I certainly feel that way a lot.
I am an atheist, but I’ve said grace at most meals for most of my adult life.
Most evenings with my children when dinner is served, we wait for everyone to sit down and then we take turns saying something that we are grateful for. We often do this with dinner guests as well – sometimes with a room full of people.
Sometimes we are sincere and sometimes we are silly.
These are some examples of things that my children, my friends and I have been grateful for: farmers, some person for cooking, washing machines, avocados, electricity, the government, some guest for coming over, Mum having a good job, bees, science, the sun, physiotherapists, being among friends, the gym, some person for doing some chore, ducted heating, being able to work from home, Miyazaki, getting to hold hands with two handsome men, computers, the weather, coffee, chickens, awesome work mates, science funding, civilisation, shopkeepers, public transport and donkeys.
What are you grateful for?
Go on, think about it for a while. It will make you feel good. I promise.