Living with Gratitude

I once heard a wise man say, “…to express gratitude is gracious and honorable, to enact gratitude is generous and noble, but to live with gratitude ever in our hearts is to touch heaven.”

– Thomas S. Monson

Let’s take a moment and analyze that quote’s three points, all of which are equally vital.

First – expressing gratitude. While it may be easy for some to say, “thank you,” or “I’m grateful for…,” or “I appreciate…,” it is definitely not the norm in modern society. The present tendency is definitely that we deserve something, after all, we paid for it, we earned it, we achieved it, and therefore we have the right to it! Right? What a robbery of kindness, happiness, and unity! What I find comforting are the individuals that, after having obtained something momentous, express with hearts full of gratitude, that their achievements were only made possible through the sacrifice of others. When we undertake to perform even the simplest expressions of gratitude for the smallest acts of service done on our behalf, we build unity between our souls.

Second – enacting gratitude. We manifest gratitude by serving our fellow beings. One of my favorite ancient American stories is a dream had by a father of a large family. In his dream, he saw a tree that had fruit that was able to produce pure happiness. After he ate the fruit, his very next desire was to share the joy he had found with his family. His sharing of happiness led to immeasurable joy by those who were willing to receive it. Thanksgiving is a wonderful time to share with others what we have been blessed with. When we act with a selfless desire to lift those around us, it helps us to be humble and we are all enlightened together.

Third – living with gratitude. The quote says this is “to touch heaven”. While we may have differing views on what heaven consists of, we can all agree that it is a significantly better condition than that which we normally find ourselves. To some, that may mean being with best friends at the most awesome concert of their life, while others may find it on a quiet lake, rocking peacefully in a fishing boat with a gentle breeze. In the movie Field of Dreams, the protagonist is asked if the baseball field he built in the middle of a cornfield in Iowa was, in fact, heaven. To the baseball players, it was heaven! SPOILER ALERT!! (But if you haven’t seen Field of Dreams c’mon already!!) At the end of the film, one player that has returned to play baseball magically from the great beyond, expresses his gratitude for the field and in a tender moment, it’s revealed that this is the father of the protagonist. There’s a special experience had by father and son as they “have a catch” together and mend broken hearts and truly experience heaven. When we have a grateful heart for the memories we’ve been able to experience, we can look back with peace, and look forward with hope. Peace and hope are my vision of heaven.

I love the fall season. We visited Ashland for the first time at the end of September last year. The trees in Lithia Park seemed to be an endless palette of reds, oranges, and yellows. My family never gets tired of spending time enjoying the changing of the seasons. Autumn brings the start to the holidays and a time to gather together. It’s a time to count our blessings and our freedoms. It’s a time to remember years past and look forward with anticipation to exciting years ahead. Happy Thanksgiving!