A perspective of gratitude

Life is not easy right now — for some of us, things could not get any worse. Our frustrations and impatience get the better of us. We avoid confrontation for the most part, but we quietly seethe at being disrespected or dismissed or overlooked.

Gratitude is a much more difficult attitude to embrace — it demands a total recalibration of how we look at our life and world.

In his book The Lord Is My Shepherd: Healing Wisdom of the Twenty-Third Psalm, Harold S. Kushner reflects on the importance — and blessings — of gratitude:

“I read of a person who had formed the habit of writing Thank you on the lower left corner of every check he wrote. When he paid his electric bill or his phone bill, he would write Thank you to express his gratitude to the companies that made those services available to him at the press of a button. Even when he paid his taxes, he would write Thank you on the check as a way of reminding himself (he didn’t think the Internal Revenue Service would notice it) that his taxes were the price he willingly paid for living in the United States with all of its benefits. . . .

“Each night as I prepare for bed, I put drops in my eyes to fend off the threat of glaucoma that would rob me of my sight and take from me the pleasure of reading. Each morning at breakfast, I take a pill to control my blood pressure, and each evening at dinner I take another to lower my cholesterol level. But instead of lamenting the ailments that come with growing older, instead of wishing I were as young and fit as I once was, I take my medicine with a prayer of thanks that modern science has found ways to help me cope with these ailments. I think of all my ancestors who didn’t live long enough to develop the complications of old age, and did not have pills to take when they did.”

The kingdom of God that Jesus proclaims is centered in a spirit of gratitude for what we have received and the humility to seek to share those blessings with others — and in that spirit of gratitude, we discover the happiness that is centered in the Spirit of God. The workers in today’s Gospel feel cheated by the vineyard owner’s generosity — their resentment at their coworkers’ good fortune diminishes them and clouds any satisfaction in being able to provide for their families. Jesus calls us to a change in perspective: to look beyond what we do not have and realize and rejoice in all that we have been given, including the love of family and friends, good health, opportunities to learn and grow, the freedom and resources to live lives of fulfillment and meaning.