By Beryl Aschenberg, Director of Religious Education.
“If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough.”
– Meister Eckhart
Several years ago, following advice found in Sarah Ban Breathnach’s book, Simple Abundance, I started to keep a gratitude journal. Each night I write down five things which I am grateful for that day.
Some days my list will be filled with remarkable things, but mostly I note simple joys. The smile of a stranger on Astor Street, dinner at home with my sweetheart, my cat purring on my lap, the color of sumac, a dazzling sunset, these have all made it into my journal in recent times.
This practice has been transformative. By offering up my gratitude at the end of the day, I became mindful of blessings as they happened and less focused on negativity, the fear of the times, the things that tick me off. “That’s one for the gratitude book,” I’ll note. It becomes a framework for reflection and connection.
As Ms. Ban Breathnach writes, “We often think it is the big moments that define our lives—the promotion, the new baby, the big house, the engagement. But the narrative of our lives is written in the simple and the small. The big moments are life’s punctuation marks.”
Carrie Newcomer, poet and folksinger, has her own take on gratitude’s effect. In her poem, Three Gratitudes, she writes of what she calls the small and humble practice of naming out loud the “significant, insignificant, extraordinary, ordinary stuff of my life.” (A video of Ms. Newcomer reading this poem is well worth your time.)
Naming abundance is like a daily thank-you note to the universe. As we move toward the holiday of Thanksgiving, perhaps we might all find ways to take stock of our daily blessings.