November: A Month to Focus on Gratitude

November brings raking leaves, mid-term exams, plenty of football, and the beginning of our Christmas plans. But for those of us in the U.S., November’s highlight is that great national holiday, Thanksgiving. It’s wonderful to have a day to call attention to the need for gratitude, but this holiday also reminds the Christian steward that every day should include thanksgiving because gratitude is essential to discipleship.

One year when I was the family’s host for Thanksgiving, I found short scripture passages on gratitude. I made place cards for each family member and on the inside of the “tent”, wrote one of the passages. Instead of formal grace, each person read their passage and then said one thing for which they were grateful. I was worried about doing this, because, although everyone in the family was born and raised Catholic, not everyone in my family was still practicing their faith.

I also knew that it would take a lot longer than saying grace, but in the end, everyone was openly moved by the experience. Don’t be afraid to evangelize when you have an opportunity. You never know who is ready to hear the Good News.

Feeling a deep appreciation for the giftedness of our lives can’t be con¬fined to one holiday when we spend a few minutes around a laden table remembering our many blessings. Neither can gratitude become a rote response.

Gratitude is good for our spiritual lives in so many ways. It reminds us of our neediness before the Lord, without whom we have nothing. The mere daily act of focusing on our blessings makes us more mindful, more present to God’s mystery and gifts, and more aware of the needs of others around us. Gratitude is best achieved by daily, focused attention. So perhaps a good exercise for November would be to write down, each day, some things for which we are truly grateful. Your list will no doubt include people – a teacher who inspired you, a coach who believed in you, an aunt who made you feel special, an employer who mentored you. Your notes might include simple things – the aroma of freshly ground coffee, a lunch invitation that brightened your day, a phone call that brought a smile. Focus on things you sometimes take for granted – the warm home in which you live, the sunshine that peeked through a cloudy day, the bright redness of a leaf on the lawn, the faithful presence of your spouse.

And during this month of thanks, remember to give thanks to the risen Lord:

Let the peace of Christ control your hearts, the peace into which you were also called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, as in all wisdom you teach and admonish one an¬other, singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him (Colossians 3:15-17).