Human beings seem to come with certain built-in spiritual inclinations, and gratitude is chief among them. Parents and teachers think we have to be taught to say thank you, but maybe it just comes naturally. Gratitude is both accessible and enlivening.
Accessible because it is as easy as paying attention to that which we might otherwise take for granted. So when our lover holds our hand for the umpteenth time it feels like it’s the first time and we’re grateful for them all over again. Or when we sit down to a plate of something humble and home-cooked it suddenly transports us to all those other meals in all those other places where we felt loved, accepted, welcomed.
Enlivening because once we pay attention to one thing, and we’re thankful for it, we can’t help but be thankful for this other thing, and that other thing. Allowing for even a speck of gratitude can set off a chain reaction that bursts our complacency bubbles, leaving us exposed to a fresh and immediate awareness of all the good that is, and that we might be and do.
Though gratitude is built-in and doesn’t necessarily need to be taught, like any spiritual inclination it can be cultivated into a more fulsome flowering. How appropriate, then, that someone as experienced at gardening as she is at spiritual practices would offer us a guide to nurturing this part of us.
What makes Donna Schaper’s book Grace at Table so delicious is that it is both accessible and enlivening, like what it seeks to nurture.