Gratitude is a beautiful practice of acknowledging the goodness one receives. It moves us from simply taking and consuming into a felt-sense of appreciation for the love and abundance in our lives.
Gratitude is not limited to time and space. We can give thanks to our parents who have passed on or the kind stranger who came to our aid twenty years ago. And we can give thanks to someone we have never met who lives across the world.
In expressing gratitude, however, we are not just feeling appreciation; we are offering an acknowledgement that we see another and that they matter in this world. This is the deeper part of gratitude few speak of.
I was walking by a homeless woman who was collecting bottles from garbage cans. She was about 70 years old, wearing a brimmed hat, red poncho and gumboots, while determinedly carrying a large plastic bag and pushing a cart filled to the rim. I’d seen this woman many times, but had yet to stop and offer some money. Again, I walked by and gave her nothing, despite the strong urge to reach into my pocket. After I ran my errands and began my return home, there she was again. This time I did not make the same mistake. I grabbed my wallet and gave her $10. I then paused and silently met her with my eyes. My heart opened to hers, we both smiled, and for a moment I connected with this woman who feels incredibly alone and forgotten.
Gratitude can offer this same gift of seeing and touching others, for gratitude is an act of giving. Let’s look at the context of the materials we consume made from sweatshops around the world. As you know, there are many products we purchase and take for granted made in poor working conditions by people desperate to get by and feed their families. Hours a day they slave away at repetitive and physically demanding work so that we can have our shiny shoes and toys. Silently they cry out to be seen and touched. They long to be remembered, to be felt. In taking pause to connect with them in our busy day, to have them in our hearts and minds in the spirit of gratitude, we not only thank them for their hard work and sacrifice, and for the gift of their labor, we also communicate, “I see you. I feel you. You are not alone.”
My friend Lynda Austin once beautifully said, “Love is seeing someone for who they are and holding them in that place.” Love remembers who people are behind confining roles, beyond everything they do, so that perhaps they no longer feel alone in this world. Love does not need to meet or know the person in order to feel and thus see the person. How many times have you felt genuine empathy for people you’ve never met? The same is thus true with gratitude. With heartfelt sincerity / intention, gratitude can find people’s underlying, soulful essence no matter where they live.
That is the deeper purpose of the word “you” in “thank you”. In thanking you, I see you. In thanking you, I acknowledge the you that is suffering, that longs for something more, that exists beyond what the eyes can see.
Despite being in Cambodia, China or Indonesia we can send those suffering our love. For we are not separate as we have been taught, but deeply interconnected. We know this from the intuitive experiences we have in our lives where we accurately attune to something or someone who is far from sight. Somehow we know what is happening without knowing how we know.
Indeed our gift of gratitude lies in the power of love that knows no bounds. There is enough evidence to show that people can feel healing energy sent their way without any prior knowledge of it coming. This is the basis for distance or remote healing. And intuitively we know this power by how naturally and often we say, “Sending my thoughts and prayers.” Somewhere deep within we feel our innate power to love those past and present, here and far.
In closing I’d like to say it is our inmost longing to lovingly tend to the one family we are. Sending gratitude while attuning to our oneness is a small, yet powerful and needed way to bridge the seemingly separate souls walking this planet into our common inheritance that transcends the brackets of fleeting time we call our lives.
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Check out Vince’s book: Wild Empty Spaces ~ Poems for the Opening Heart