Let’s not make gratitude a (forgotten?) trend

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Do you remember a time, in the not too distant past, when social media during November was almost synonymous with public statements of gratitude? For a few years there, so many of my friends and family spent each day of the month logging the things for which they were grateful that the posts seemed to dominate my feeds.

From big things like family, or fun things like travel, or small things like a good cup of coffee, these repeated notes of gratitude became a welcome annual addition to a social media landscape that can too often be overrun with negativity or conflict.

Like so many other things in our culture, social media tends to be dictated by trends. Like the tide, they ebb and they flow, changing and making way for the next in vogue quiz, idea or viral meme. For a while, at least publicly, that trend was gratitude. People of strong faith, waning faith or no faith were finding a common point of connection — “this is the thing I am grateful for today” — and sharing it with their universes. The movement seemed to coincide with the rise and popularity of gratitude journals and an increase in articles in which wellness and mental health experts stated that developing an “attitude of gratitude” is key to one’s happiness. It was really nice, and then it was gone.

As people of faith, though, we know that, regardless of current secular and cultural trends, gratitude plays a permanent and critical role in the Christian life, beginning with our own prayers of thanksgiving for the many blessings given to us by God. St. Paul writes to the Thessalonians: “Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thes 5:16-18).

It is gratitude that builds humility and empathy. It is gratitude that redirects navel-gazing and enables us to think of others. It is gratitude that helps us recognize our own God-given dignity and also see that dignity in others. It is gratitude that can help shape us as we pursue the path of holiness. “The secret of happiness is to live moment by moment and to thank God for all that He, in His goodness, sends to us day after day,” said St. Gianna Beretta Molla. I think this is especially true when the last thing we want to do is to be grateful.

Last year, and again this year, for the month of November, we have hung a gratitude poster in our kitchen. Each day, the kids identify something for which they are grateful, and my husband writes it down. Responses, as you would expect from children who are 4 and 2, have ranged from “Mama and DiDa” to “my Lego Batmobile.” Sometimes they make us laugh, and sometimes they blow us away, as did our toddler daughter, who, unprompted, said she was grateful for “Baby” — the newest member of our family due to arrive in the spring (thanks be to God!). It’s been a wonderful exercise that gets the kids out of themselves for at least a few moments and, we hope, helps them naturally develop a heart of gratitude. My husband and I should do it, too, and we should find intentional ways to extend our proclamations and acts of thanksgiving beyond just one month a year.

Because giving thanks isn’t a fad. It shouldn’t ride a wave of popularity and then fade away. Gratitude is a way of life — a way to rightly recognize everything as gift from God. No matter the time of year or its level of popularity, may we forever be bold in giving thanks.

This article comes to you from Our Sunday Visitor courtesy of your parish or diocese.

 

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