It's easy to be grateful after something good has happened. It's natural. But what about being grateful before something happens?
What about appreciating the good we've not seen, the good that exists, but hasn't yet been uncovered? Would it make a difference?
It's helped me to think of it this way: On a cold winter day, when there is not a green leaf or bud in sight, when the days are short and gray and often quite bleak, can you be grateful right then, for spring? For spring's newness, its longer days, bursting buds, the warm sun on your back, the smell of freshly cut grass? You can. Because you are certain of the coming of spring, of course you can be grateful for it before there is any evidence of it.
When I was in high school, I learned to be grateful in advance. During my junior and senior years I attended a boarding school in the midwestern United States. My family was living in a different country, and they would often send me letters or packages that were too big to fit into my dorm mailbox. So I would get a notice in my box, telling me I had a package to pick up at the school post office.
I dreaded these notices. Not because I wasn't excited to get a letter or a package, but because the woman who worked in the post office was so mean. Or so I - and many others - thought.
All during my junior year, I put up with the cold exchanges we'd have. I'd say hello and hand her my slip. She'd say nothing and practically throw the package at me.
Then, early in my senior year, it dawned on me that the way I thought about her was my responsibility - and my opportunity to see healing. The way I was seeing her - as mean and cold - was a view of her that I'd bought into.
I had learned in Sunday School that God made all of us, as His children, good. So what I had been putting up with was really my own ungrateful, unloving thought about her, not something that was permanently true about her.
I made a choice, from that moment on, to be grateful for her. Each day that I'd see her, I would be thankful for her as a child of God, for the love, joy, and kindness that she reflected. Although there was no outward expression of these qualities, I continued to be grateful for them, knowing they were there.
The gratitude that filled my heart showed itself in the way I began to treat this friend. Even though she showed no sign yet that she thought of me as a friend, that really didn't matter to me. I was certain of God's control of this situation, and therefore certain of a good outcome. Things continued like this for many months.
One day, when I went by the post office to mail some letters, my previously grouchy friend greeted me. We even chatted for a few minutes.
Over the next couple of months, our conversations grew longer and friendlier. I enjoyed talking with her and felt that she also appreciated these conversations.
One day she stopped me and said, "Thank you for always being so kind to me. You have no idea what it's like to work in here. Everyone is always so rude to me. You've been so kind, and I'm very grateful for that."
A couple of months later, right before my graduation, I got a notice to pick up a package. At the post office, she handed me a gift-wrapped box, and said, "This time the package is from me."
I couldn't believe it. She had called the college I would attend in the fall and ordered a sweatshirt for me with the name of the college on it. We both were grateful for the blessings of this friendship.
I've never forgotten how this taught me the power of giving thanks for something I may not see evidence of but am certain exists.
Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered Christian Science, wrote: "It is ignorance and false belief, based on a material sense of things, which hide spiritual beauty and goodness" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," p. 304). God has established each of us as good. We need only to uncover this goodness.