It’s the week of gratitude!  Gratitude is one of the greatest forces for good in our human existence.

Dr. Robert Emmons, a professor at the University of California, Davis, and one of the leading scholars in the scientific study of gratitude, said the following:

… gratitude is a deeper, more complex phenomenon that plays a critical role in human happiness. Gratitude is literally one of the few things that can measurably change people’s lives.

Dr. Emmons did numerous studies and was able to show that people who regularly kept a gratitude journal were 25% happier than those who kept track of their hassles or did nothing at all.  He also showed that people in the habit of expressing gratitude reported feeling closer and more connected to people, had better relationships, were more likely to help others, felt less lonely, felt less depressed, slept better, and were more pleasant to be around.

There are 3 crucial ways that gratitude is a life changer.

First, gratitude helps us realize the fleeting nature of this life.  Every experience we have is temporary and subject to change.  An attitude of gratitude brings us into the here and now, the present moment, to fully experience and savor things that inevitably will come to an end.  It helps us see the miraculous in the mundane.

Second, gratitude connects us to the things that are real and enduring.  There is a common thread that binds each fleeting moment— the thread of God’s infinite love for us, our intimate connection to the whole human family, and to the natural world around us.  A sense of gratitude helps us feel that connection in every moment if we pay attention.

And finally, gratitude opens us up to experiencing joy— not just temporary happiness or fleeting pleasure.  The Benedictine monk David Steindl-Rast wrote:  “The root of joy is gratefulness…It is not joy that makes us grateful; it is gratitude that makes us joyful.”

As you sit and read this, bring yourself into the present moment and find gratitude for what is right in front of you.

As I look out the window I see the vibrant colors of the autumn leaves.  What a glorious designer nature is!  I have never in my life seen oak trees as red as they are this year in Virginia– something that is very fleeting indeed.  I’m also sharing a desk with a nine year old who has been teaching himself JavaScript.  What a miracle human ingenuity is!  What an amazing force of creation it is and its evidence is all around us.  I can’t even wrap my mind around the imaginative thoughts, the trial and error, the intricate attention to detail  that went into designing and building the computer he is using, let alone the language he is learning to make that computer do what he wants it to.  And then there is that boy himself.  This boy who grew inside of my belly, but is now his own person– his very own kind of person.

My friends, I am filled with joy!  Just these few brief seconds looking at the trees out my window, contemplating the eons of human creativity that have led to the amazing conveniences I enjoy, and looking at just one of my sweet children lights me up inside with more than pleasure– it’s joy.

And gratitude made it.