I am just back from an oft-deferred and much-needed vacation. It was everything I had been needing and wanting: reconnection with old friends, leisurely time in nature, good food, and deep relaxation. It was a fun and restorative week, and it was easy to feel grateful for all of it. In fact, the gratitude I felt throughout the week suffused every part of my awareness. I felt peaceful, blissful, and lighthearted.
And then, after I was all packed up and ready to leave the next morning, I got a late-night text message from the airline telling me my flight was cancelled.
Now, as anyone with even a modicum of flying experience knows, nothing can tank one’s attitude of gratitude faster than having to deal with airlines and airports, especially when navigating unexpected, last-minute changes.
I chose to take the experience as a challenge to stay grateful. I remembered 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “Give thanks in all circumstances.” That can be so much easier to say than it is to do, but I committed to doing it nonetheless.
I looked for anything for which to be grateful and concentrated my energy and attention on that. I stayed flexible and accepting of any shifting circumstances coming my way as I gave thanks for even the smallest kindnesses and synchronicities.
The benefit of doing this was that the gratitude I had cultivated during my vacation stayed with me as I journeyed home. It was the lifeboat that carried me over the choppy waters of thwarted plans, disappointment, and irritation.
The Gifts of Gratitude
My experience with my recent cancelled flight was relatively minor, but it has given me a blueprint for how to handle future inconveniences and disappointments. The key is to stay grateful in all things, which, of course, is different than being grateful for all things. This is a lesson we’ve all been learning over the last couple of years as the world and our lives have been changed so drastically.
And, of course, many of those changes have been more difficult—and even devastating—than a cancelled flight. It can be hard to look at the tougher circumstances of our lives and find even a single thing for which to feel grateful. But that’s all the more reason to try.
At the very least, in the face of adversity, we can give thanks for the strength to endure dark times and for the faith to believe in brighter days ahead. When coping with loss, we can feel grateful for the comfort of our memories and the support of family and friends. And when called to acclimate to unfamiliar and unwelcome circumstances, we can be grateful for the gifts of creativity and adaptability that allow us to lead ourselves into a new way of living.
The more grateful we can be for these indwelling gifts, the more easily we will be able to call upon them when we need them most.
We’ll always find things to be grateful for, of course. But with the practice of mindful attention, we’ll also be able to feel that gratitude in all things and soar far above that which might have kept us down.
Rev. Teresa Burton, Daily Word Editor
PS: Make new memories this holiday season with Remember That Time...a Christmas Game. This beautiful deck with 58 messages of holiday joy is the perfect activity for reflection. Use it to recall memories holiday seasons past and to explore the meaning of Christmas present. Enjoy with family and friends!
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