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The art of expressing kindness and being appreciative

As many of you know, I am the recipient of a Joseph R. Biden Presidential Award for Lifetime Service and Achievement. I can barely find the words to express my gratitude for this high honor. I want to note that many who love me deeply and dearly responded that it was no surprise to them that I should get such an award, it was quite a surprise to me.

For the past few days, I have spent a fair amount of time exploring why this award was such a surprise to me. Many years ago, I made a very clear decision to spend my life devoted to the search for reasons to be grateful and to show as much gratitude in a day as possible for the daily small and large gifts with as much equity as possible. I wanted to get away from looking to the mountaintop for awe inspiring events and to pay more attention to the daily gifts that are so easily dismissed. I was looking for a remedy to having so little peace and spending too much time waiting for something that would be a once and for all solution to the lack of peace and the state of feeling ungrounded that stayed with me so much of the time.

I read everything that I could find on the subject and of all of the things that I read, the discussions on gratitude made the most sense, brought me the most comfort and turned out over these past decades to be the most helpful. Thus, I embarked upon the journey of keeping a gratitude journal which I used to list the many reasons for having a grateful heart each morning before doing anything else. So many of the small gifts of the day that went unnoticed while I was allowing myself to be swept away by the day’s aggravations and often small disappointments. I learned to separate disasters and other serious daily upheavals from the simple inconveniences which were often given too much attention.

Of course, the joy of paying attention to the hummingbirds darting into the feeder for a quick bite of their liquid lunch from the feeder that hangs outside of my study’s window is not the same as the joy of finishing the manuscript for my eighth book a few weeks ago, but it is joy that cannot be ignored. The practice of paying attention to the energy of joy that comes from both and allowing them to occupy their proper space in my head and heart helps to ground me so that I do not spend time wondering about what will happen tomorrow; whether it is wondering about getting an award or not really does not matter, the point is that it helps me to live in the present moment.

Living in the present moment helps me to focus upon what I need to be saying and doing in the moment rather than being distracted with “what if.” Let me be clear, I get distracted at times and sometimes by focusing attention on the most mundane possibilities, but the practice of gratitude helps me to turn around and reengage with the present enough to move back to the space of peace and allowing the day to unfold. Therefore, I am always surprised by what the future brings, no matter what it happens to be.

As one who struggles to maintain a daily diet of creative and artistic expression in my work, the clothes that I wear, the language that I use and the way that I imagine the way forward, it is clear to me that the practice of gratitude requires a similar commitment as a discipline. It is a choice. Hopefully, each day will continue to be filled with surprises for all of us because we have vacated the effort to predict daily outcomes and are choosing to embrace the daily march of our lives with a heart filled with gratitude. Let’s be brave enough to try it, everyday!

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