The Christian writer G. K. Chesterton had the right idea when he said we need to get in the habit of "taking things with gratitude and not taking things for granted." Gratitude puts everything in a fresh perspective; it enables us to see the many blessings all around us. And the more ways we find to give thanks, the more things we find to be grateful for.
Giving thanks takes practice, however. We get better at it over time. Gratitude is one of the key markers of the spiritual life we include in the Alphabet of Spiritual Literacy. It is essential if we are to read the sacred significance of our daily lives.
November is an especially good time to make gratitude your spiritual discipline. This emphasis braces us for the winter months and puts us in the right frame of mind for the gift-giving holiday season. So we've come up with a gratitude practice for every day up to and including Thanksgiving. We start by giving thanks for the things close at hand and as the days move toward the feast day at the end of the month, we extend the boundaries of our thanks-giving.
Nov. 1 (All Saints Day) : Express your gratitude in a note or a phone call to a person whose ministry in daily life nurtures your faith. Thank God for this saint in your life.
Nov. 2: Take time to enjoy something you own but have ignored — a piece of jewelry or a flower vase — and express your gratitude for its beauty by dusting it off and using it.
Nov. 3: Go on a quiet, meditative walk through your house. Stop and say prayers of thanks for all the good experiences you have had in each room.
Nov. 4: While you are eating a meal, be grateful for the food by savoring each piece with all your senses.
Nov. 5: Choose one thing you use every day — perhaps a favorite pen or a cooking pot — and say a prayer over it, acknowledging how it helps you serve others and God.
Nov. 6: Wash your car or clean your telephone and tell God how much you appreciate how these things help you make connections with other people.
Nov. 7: Show your gratitude for the gifts of nature by incorporating some of them — leaves, twigs, acorns, rocks, sand — into a table centerpiece.
Nov. 8: Find a special way to express your gratitude to a part of your body; for example, give your feet a good massage.
Nov. 9: Convey to your pets how grateful you are to have their company in your daily life.
Nov. 10: Write a letter of appreciation to an author whose book has been an inspiration to you. Send it through his/her website.
Nov. 11 (Traditional Veteran’s Day in the United States): Give thanks for peace, and the peacemakers in your life.
Nov. 12: Pass on a gift that you have received but that is sitting unused in a closet. Keeping gifts in circulation is a sign of gratitude.
Nov. 13: After seeing a movie or watching a TV program that touches your soul, say a prayer of thanks for the writer, director, actors, and actresses.
Nov. 14: Write a letter to a relative in which you acknowledge the special role he or she plays in your family circle. If possible, include an invitation to Thanksgiving dinner.
Nov. 15: Write a tribute in your journal to the person — living or dead — who has lifted your spirits and helped you understand that you are a child of God.
Nov. 16: Write in your journal about a difficult person (even an enemy) who has taught you something you needed to know about yourself and/or your community. End your entry with an expression of gratitude for this insight.
Nov. 17: In gratitude for the good service of a grocery store, a cleaners, or a gas station, tell your friends about the place so that their business can grow.
Nov. 18: Show activists in your community that you are thankful for their efforts by showing up at a meeting or volunteering time in their offices.
Nov. 19: Send a check to a charity or a nonprofit organization with a note mentioning your support of the good work they are doing.
Nov. 20: Create a living prayer of thanksgiving by providing a service to a neighbor, doing a chore, or running an errand.
Nov. 21: To express your gratitude to a good friend for always being there for you, give a CD of your favorite songs or a book that has changed your life.
Nov. 22: As you are moving around your community today, notice and acknowledge the many blessings you receive from living there.
Nov. 23: During a period of silence today, enjoy and give thanks for places and times of silence when you can get in touch with your deepest self.
Nov. 24: Identify one quality that you admire about each person coming to your Thanksgiving meal. Using decorative script, stickers, and drawings, create place cards illustrating these qualities. If possible, include children in this project.
Nov. 25: As you begin to prepare the food for Thanksgiving Day, share stories with other cooks of memorable feasts you have enjoyed.
Nov. 26: (Thanksgiving) Say grace before your Thanksgiving meal. Give thanks for the food, the fellowship of the company around the table, and the presence of Spirit among you.