What a gleam of gratitude can do
Bringing a spiritual perspective to daily life
Loud and angry, Stan had come in from recess, trying hard to hide his hurt. Then the anger turned to tears, and the harder he tried not to cry, the faster the tears flowed. He'd been blamed for something he said he hadn't done, and his friends hadn't backed him up. I took Stan outside in the hallway, and we sat on the carpet as I listened to his story.
I talked to him about this being an opportunity to forgive, and I promised to talk to the playground supervisor on his behalf. But it wasn't enough. Stan wasn't comforted.
I wanted to help, and it was absolutely necessary to stop the disruption in my classroom; so, I prayed, "Father, show me what to do."
The answer was immediate, and it came in the form of a memory.
Once, a beloved relative and I had an argument, and he made a cutting remark. I cried all night. In the morning, I contacted a friend to share my sorrowful story, but she put a halt to it. "Stop!" she said. "Stop right now, and be grateful for something ... even if it's just the buttons on your shirt."
It was hard. I really had to put some effort into listening and being obedient. But finally I said, "OK, if I can be grateful for anything, I choose ... birds singing." And every day after that, every time I heard a bird chirping, it reminded me to be grateful. The clutch of hurt began to loosen, and eventually the loving relationship was restored.
Later, I discovered the principle of being grateful, which my friend had helped me grasp.
Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer of Christian Science and founder of this newspaper, wrote prolifically on the subject of love, forgiveness, and the power of gratitude. In her work "Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896," she wrote of what's really happening when we express gratitude instead of complaint: "To kindle all minds with a gleam of gratitude, the new idea that comes welling up from infinite Truth needs to be understood" (page 1).
What is the new idea to be understood? It's different for each individual and continues to unfold in fresh ways. For me, it was the new understanding that I didn't have to helplessly let sorrow wash over me. Gratitude for good, however small, was evidence that God's love had reached me. If something was present that I could be grateful for, then God, also, was present, because all good comes from God. And understanding this comforted me.
So, I acted on this inspiration by asking Stan, "What's good in your life?"
"Nothing," he replied, sniffling.
I reminded him that he had made the basketball team, he had been named MVP, and that his grades were improving.
He took a deep breath and came up with two more things that were good; and then two more; and then two more ... until he had a list of a dozen things.
"And you have a lot of friends," I reminded him. "Sometimes people disappoint us, and we have to forgive them, but that doesn't mean the friendship is over."
The tears stopped, and he calmly went back to class.
Being grateful for blessings is a way of finding peace and "a priceless sense of the dear Father's loving-kindness." ("Mary Baker Eddy, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," page 366).
Sorrow and self-pity are a fog that we can get lost in if we indulge it. It can make us feel separated from God's love and goodness.
For me, Stan's list was evidence once again that, by recognizing that we are blessed, even in small ways, we don't have to submit to feelings of helplessness and hurt. This recognition, kindled by gratitude, comforts us, encourages us, and lights our path.
Thou art my God,
and I will praise thee:
thou art my God,
I will exalt thee.
O give thanks unto the Lord;
for he is good:
for his mercy endureth for ever.
Psalms 118:28, 29