“Day and night gifts keep pelting down on us.
If we were aware of this, gratefulness would overwhelm us.
But we go through life in a daze.”
~Fr. David Steindl-Rast, A Listening Heart: The Spirituality of Sacred Sensuousness, 1999, p. 48
-Sir? Sir? Are you the one they call Mikey? I understand the other gentleman, Davey – is that his name? – is off this afternoon. May I have a word with you instead? They said to ask Davey if you need serious advice, but I really need some guidance now, if you have a moment.
And may I call you Michael? Lord knows I need an archangel today, someone to slay this emptiness inside me. I know people have their little nicknames but I come from a more traditional family I guess.
My goodness sir, just a word about your pub. It reminds me of a library, and who would have dreamed looking at it from the outside. Elegant leather chairs, dark wood all around. Even bookshelves. With real books on them. Now that’s a throwback to my father’s era. Reminds me of his library. Rest his soul.
But, Michael, I’m in a bit of a tither because it’s Christmas here in just four days. I’ve purchased something for everyone. Mother. Sister. My dear friend Darlene. And, of course, that rogue James. A special gift on top of my tithe. Something for those poor people who lost everything in the flood last month. I have thought and thought but I think I have everything covered. Christmas is done. Wrapped up, as it were.
Yet…I feel so empty inside Michael. Even looking forward to all the doings coming up at church, I…feel…bereft. And I do not know why. I’ve stewed and stewed but…nothing. I mean nothing. I feel, like I said, a sense of loss. I should be happy, I think, right now. Can you help me kind sir? My archangel of mercy?
-M’am nice to meet you but, believe me, I’m no angel and I’m not even sure what an archangel is. I’m not really sure what bereft means for that matter, but it doesn’t sound good. So, would you be interested in my take just in general? I do see a lot of people here and they always have advice to give anyone who has ears, believe me.
What did you say your name was? You didn’t? Susan. Oh…Suzanne. Suzanne, I’m no pundit, no piled higher and deeper, no spiritual guru. I’m a simple guy who tries to listen. To my customers, like you. To my preacher. Yes, I go to church most Sundays. To my wife, so wise. My kids. Friends. And you know what?
What I noticed over time is that the folks who look the happiest when they come in here – I mean, some just glow – are those who talk about what they are thankful for. Not what they want or didn’t get but about what they already have. And they don’t yammer about how happy they are, they’ll tell you if you ask, but you can just see it in how at peace they seem to be.
So I got to thinking about that. I found this guy, David Steindl-Rast, and he’s a monk who writes about gratefulness. Started a whole gratefulness website even. I think…I have one of his books on that shelf over there. Yup. I love this little book for a lot of reasons, but here’s something he says that might be helpful to you. It sure was for me.
“We need some methodical exercise in gratefulness”, Fr. David says. “Years ago, I devised a method for myself which has proved quite helpful. Every night I note in a pocket calendar one thing for which I have never been consciously thankful. Do you think it is difficult to find a new reason for gratitude every day? Not just one, but three and four and five pop into my mind, some evenings. It is hard to imagine how long I would have to live to exhaust the supply” (p. 48).
In other words, if we think about something we are grateful for every day, and write it down, pretty soon we are, he says anyway, we can be overflowing with gratefulness. Filled up.
Sounds so simple.
And, you know, it is.
Just writing one gift. One present you received that day. Rain. A smile. A car that starts.
I started doing that myself every morning. Just writing one thing down – this morning it was about how thankful I am to have a brother to work this bar with me, especially this time of year. Yesterday I think it was that the city plowed the snow so I could get to work.
Might be worth a try, Suzanne. One. Every day. Written down. Think about living gratefully every day and see what happens. Would you come back and tell me if it makes a difference at all?
Happy holidays and a Merry Christmas to you. Wishing you peace and many blessings Suzanne. And remember, every day – every breath you take – is a gift.
Trust me, I’m a bartender.
Steindl-Rast, D. (1999). A listening heart: the spirituality of sacred sensuousness (Newly rev. ed.). New York: Crossroad Pub.
Also, check out his Network for Grateful Living