Each morning at nine o’clock a reminder on my phone clinks. It is my daily reminder to be grateful. I think of three things, and then text them to my sister halfway across the world, who responds in kind with three of her own. I started the practice over a year ago. At first I just was doing it myself, but when my sister came to visit last Christmas she asked me about this ding she kept hearing each morning. I told her what it was, and soon she began to participate in my gratefuls. It has been a space of grace and hope in some times when I had a very difficult time seeing outside of a shadow.
There are rules, but only for good reasons. The Gratefuls can be anything: a simple sunrise, a simple cloudy day, what I’m eating for breakfast, joy of spending time with children, and so on. Or they can be complex: a changing relationship, a change at how I see the world, plans for growth or celebration, or a new development at work. The only thing they cannot be are Sour Gratefuls. You know the kind: I’m grateful that I don’t have to do something because other plans failed, in other words, a statement of gratefulness that only points at the negative direction of an event. When we do those, they require a do-over. It is not sufficient, and is not the point.
I don’t always have bubbly feelings each morning, and I surely don’t always have the perspective I need to be able to see the promise in the darkest situations, but I can usually find three things to be grateful for each morning, and sometimes, when I’m feeling I want extra practice, each night as well. (Of course, this means that my sister receives them in the morning… she is 14 hours ahead of me right now.)
These times of being grateful are not necessarily hopping up and down grateful times, more often than not I simply look around at my surroundings and see what is in the immediate vicinity, and think about how it has affected me (or effected me, depending on what it is).
I never thought that I would be able to continue the practice for so very long. I am usually pretty good at forgetting and leaving aside rituals that don’t have immediate rewards. I suppose my sister joining me in the practice is part of the reward, but in some ways she simply keeps me honest, and helps to remind me if I have ignored my electronic reminder.
Sometimes I will experience something, and I will know that it will be my next grateful, and then sometimes as I sit back and reflect on my gratefuls, I will realize something that never occurred to me in the moment.
So, today, what are mine? Rituals, practice, and accountability.