My agricultural heritage often surfaces in my thinking. A recent case in point would be my work on a stewardship sermon on the theme of “gratitude.” I keep coming back to the thought that gratitude requires cultivation. To become a truly grateful person, one must work at or develop that quality. One must cultivate gratitude. Agree?
Let me further puzzle this one out with you: Cultivation is all about preparing, developing, and improving soil conditions for maximum growth and production. A well cultivated garden or field is absent the invasion of weeds that compete for nutrients. It also contains soil that has been worked up, broken up, and made ready to receive seed or plants. And it may benefit from some additive fertilizer, or a cover crop that has been tilled under. These small but important steps will yield a more productive crop from a well cultivated environment.
Isn’t the same true of cultivation of our lives? Learning to express thanks and gratitude in small things often leads to the ability to look at the larger things of life with eyes of gratitude. Becoming a reflective and grateful person develops over time and through the practice of gratitude attitudes. Such practices may include simple things like saying grace before a meal, or naming three things you are thankful for as part of that prayer of grace.
From there it might grow into the practice of storytelling, a means of keeping an open and grateful heart at work. It could morph into a personal or group version of asset mapping, where we look for the positives and refuse to dwell on the negatives of the group, organization or situation.
Gratitude cultivation can continue through the engagement in a simple daily examen (examination of conscience) to close a day through the question: What am I grateful for today?
Over time these “practices” have the potential to become more and more routine, welcome and helpful in one’s living. Dare we say “cultivating” a life of gratitude?
The old adage is: Practice makes perfect. A gifted musician once told me, “No, practice makes permanent.” As it concerns gratitude, permanence comes through the cultivating practice of expressing thanks.
How are you cultivating gratitude in your life these days?