Experiencing Life as a Gift

November is upon us. I love the way the season of Thanksgiving forces me to slow down and remember to practice intentional gratitude. Author John Ortberg wrote, “Gratitude is the ability to experience life as a gift. It opens us up to wonder, delight, and humility. It makes our hearts generous. It liberates us from the prison of self-preoccupation.”

Perhaps like me, you have the tendency to hit the floor running in the morning, eat on the run, drive fast, work hard, multi-task, fill up your days, and crash at night… sometimes without pausing to reflect on all the gifts given to me throughout the day. Lately, I’ve been trying to slow down, eliminate hurry, pause a bit more, and realize how much I have to be thankful for… a hot shower, my morning coffee, a roof over my head, a car that runs, a job I love, a beautiful sunset… And as I take time to notice, remember and express gratitude, I have found the quote above to be so true – gratitude makes my heart more generous toward others. I am more patient. I share my stuff. I give others the benefit of the doubt. I bless them instead of curse them. I want what’s best for them.

I witnessed such a vivid illustration of this when I was working with vulnerable children in Africa. In a remote Zambian village, our team was assessing the situation of the local children. Most lived with a grandparent who might sell vegetables or some other goods along the road; they had little food or clothes, and our team was working to empower the locals to provide for these basic needs as well as education. At the conclusion of each assessment, we gave the children a snack size bag of skittles, a treat they rarely, if ever, received. I watched as one little girl held out her hand to receive the candy, her eyes shining at the small red bag with the rainbow. She smiled and ran outside, where I watched her tear open the bag and begin to give the skittles away one by one to all of her friends who encircled her. She ate one Skittle. And she giggled with delight and jumped up and down with all of her friends with whom she had shared her treasure. That moment still lives in my memory. A little girl so grateful for a gift she had been given that she turned around and gave almost all of it away. And she was happy.

It is my hope this month (and every month!) that you and I realize the precious gifts we’ve been given this November and not only express thanks but become more generous people as a result. Gandhi said, “We must be the change we want to see in the world.” I think being that change starts from a grateful heart. May each of you have a beautiful Thanksgiving filled with gifts that open you up to wonder and delight in such as way that you make the world a better place.