When I was a kid my parents took me to visit my grandparents a couple of times a year. At meal times we would wait for everyone to sit down at the table and someone would say grace. The details seemed to vary, but grace always involved thanking God for our food. I remember thinking that God probably had less to do with the production of our meal than people and the sun (and other natural things). I also remember thinking that it was nice that we waited for everyone to sit down and that it made the meal into more of an event and that even as a kid, I liked the quiet time for reflection.
When I graduated with my Bachelor of Science, the speaker asked all the graduates to stand, turn around and thank their parents (who were assumed to be in the audience) for their support (with applause). As a mature aged student, my parents weren’t there, I had a couple of friends instead. Anyway, I turned around and at that moment I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude. Not for my friends, nor for my parents, but for the opportunity to be standing there. For most of my undergraduate degree, I was a single parent and was financially supported, at least in part, by government benefits. The fact that I got to go to university while raising preschool and school-aged children on my own and that I didn’t have to worry too much about money, is something I will always be grateful for.
Now I have a merit and equity scholarship to do my PhD and an amazing job teaching at university that fits perfectly with my study. That’s a story for another day, but also something I am so incredibly grateful for.
At some point in my early adult life I realised that gratitude is a useful emotion. I have experienced some very, very tough times and feeling grateful for what I did have was a useful way of shifting my focus. I don’t remember if I intentionally started a habit of being grateful, but I certainly feel that way a lot.
I am an atheist, but I like saying grace.
On the evenings that my children and I have a meal together, we wait for everyone to sit down and then we take turns saying something that we are grateful for. We often do this with dinner guests as well.
Sometimes we are sincere and sometimes we are silly.
These are some examples of things that my children, my friends and I have been grateful for:
Farmers, $person for cooking, washing machines, avocados, Neil Gaiman, electricity, the government, $guest for coming over, Mum having a good job, bees, science, the sun, physiotherapists, being among friends, the gym, $person for doing $chore, ducted heating, Fitocracy, being able to work from home, Miyazaki, getting to hold hands with two handsome men, computers, the weather, coffee, awesome work mates, science funding, civilisation, shopkeepers, public transport and donkeys.
What are you grateful for?
Go on, think about it for a while. It will make you feel good. I promise.