“I am thankful for many things. First of all, I am thankful for the world, because without it we would be floating in outer space. Second of all, I am thankful for mom and dad and sister, because they help me. Last of all, I am grateful for nature because if we didn’t have nature it wouldn’t be pretty. I am thankful for all of these things.”

From Parker Palmer’s blog post for On Being: Gratitude for the Work of Loving the World

November is the perfect month to think about – and cultivate – gratitude in our lives, but stop and think. How often have you felt a real, deep, conscious feeling of gratitude for something? And, do you know that practicing gratitude provides real physical, psychological and social benefits

The Cambridge Dictionary defines gratitude as “… the feeling or quality of being grateful…”. I like its emphasis on feeling better than the Merriam Webster version which defines gratitude as “…the state of being grateful...”. Both of these are pretty simple definitions. There is certainly more to this idea of gratitude, and you may think it wordsmithing, but I see the Cambridge definition as the more active of the two. This is likely because I am learning that it is important to consciously, actively cultivate a feeling of gratitude within ourselves. As we race from meeting to meeting, from task to task, we overlook so many things in our lives for which we can feel grateful or we compartmentalize the time for feeling grateful to something like the upcoming holiday season.

This month a group of women at our church will be meeting to talk together about gratitude. What it is, the importance of feeling it, our struggles sometimes to find it and really take it in in the fast-paced world of our lives today. As we plan for the program, I am coming to more fully appreciate that to feel truly grateful – to “heart-feel” gratitude if you will – requires active work. We must be willing to take time to be still, to be mindful in the moment if only for a few seconds, for what, however small, is engendering gratitude in us; the touch of a hand, the color of a leaf, the smell of the earth, the warmth of a moment of shared laughter. These moments can pass by quickly and be gone. We must consciously cultivate the practice of taking a moment to be aware of what is outside of ourselves that causes us to feel grateful in that moment.

In Parker Palmer’s blog post he shares the poem, Messenger, by Mary Oliver which begins “My work is loving the world.” What a vision of actively practicing gratitude this poem describes! Check out his post and read the full poem.

We have so much to be grateful for if we only look! I hope each of you finds gratitude more deeply in your own life and that it comes – at least in part – from a connection to the natural world.

John Muir is quoted as having said, “I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.” Now that, to me, is all about a deep, deep, heartfelt feeling of gratitude for what nature gives to us if we but take a moment to open ourselves…

Author's Note: The images accompanying this post are a small example of the way I experience gratitude in my work of loving the world.


If you are interested in reading more about gratitude and the benefits it brings to our lives, I share these web sites as some I found of interest.

Positive Psychology Program. What is Gratitude and What is its Role in Positive Psychology? 

What is Gratitude? 

Why Gratitude is Good. The Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley. 

Giving Thanks Can Make You Happier. Harvard School of Public Health.