Gratitude Is My Wake-Up Call
Posted by Janessa Gans on Nov 23, 2018
It’s raining today! The welcome drops from heaven are pitter-pattering on my roof as I listen in exultation. So grateful that the weather is finally ending the fire threat and washing the smoke from the air. It’s the first time it has rained since early October; before that, Spring. It’s hard not to blame “Climate Change.” Growing up my dad regaled me with stories of 1972, his first year in Redding when it rained every single day of November except for one day mid-month when it merely threatened to rain. How can one not feel disheartened that, instead of respite from a historic drought, California has been battling the most destructive wildfires ever observed in the state? The truth is, I do feel overwhelmed and frustrated by it all--whether it's fires or violence or apathy-- and feel a sort of gnawing sadness and uneasiness. Acting from that space ends up just trying to force things to be better and fix them to "make it right." I realize the only thing that results is that I feel stressed, exhausted, resentful, and depleted in the process. Not too effective!
The quality of gratitude is so often my wake-up call. We start each meeting at Euphrates -- Board meetings, team meetings, Chapter meetings -- by asking everyone present to tell the group something they’re grateful for. We do the same thing with our children every night. People think of gratitude as passive and reflective, and, while it’s true that gratitude doesn’t, in itself, solve problems, it does focus our thought on things that are GOOD. It gives us a place to start, something on which to build. An appreciative consciousness is not yielding to discouragement, is not overwhelmed by problems that appear to be insurmountable. “In every thing, give thanks,” 1 Thessalonians 5:18.
The founder of ServiceSpace, Nipun Mehta, is a true inspiration to me. On a conference call recently he asked the group, “What would it look like to give from a place of scarcity?” Such a powerful idea! People hoard their resources until they perceive “abundance,” or, at the very least, “sufficiency.” But in my experience, we never quite get there; no matter how well off we might be, there’s always more that’s needed before it’s “enough.” But, wow, giving from scarcity? Then we don’t have to wait! We can do that right now. We can serve selflessly and give freely. It’s like we need to be given permission for this. That’s what gratitude does—focuses our attention on how even in the midst of challenges or scarcity, there’s still good. Starting from that place releases overwhelmed and frustrated feelings and reminds us that good is always going on, life is flowing, peace is here. It’s the same principle that opened my eyes to the Euphrates, a river of life flowing serenely through the war zones of al Anbar province. Even amidst the most dire circumstances, “there is a river.”
This Thanksgiving as the rain falls on our scorched land, I’m grateful for the many blessings that we have and don’t even realize—the hundreds of people it took, for example, for me to even sit down to eat breakfast—the people who grew the food, delivered it, made my clothes, our furniture, the folks in our government and military keeping us safe and keeping things running. It’s truly humbling! And I’m grateful for all of you in this Euphrates community. I’m grateful that you really do care, that you serve and give selflessly, that you strive each day to make this world a better place. And I’m grateful that through this vital cause, we get to work on ways that we can connect to each other and pool our efforts more effectively.
Thank you, and Happy Thanksgiving!