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Gratitude: It’s the Little Things

We’re now one week into the Gratitude Challenge, and I’m astonished by people’s generosity in sharing the blessings in their lives. We now have more than 600 members of our Facebook community, and their daily reminders of the things they’re grateful for have lifted my spirits every day.

Mostly, we’re grateful for simple things. A high school friend who is now an art teacher was thankful for new paints to start the school year; my husband the engineer was thankful for having all the tools needed to paint and install our new basement door. (It looks smashing, by the way.)

Occasionally there are deep, sometimes dark, expressions of gratitude, like the man who is still coming to terms with his experiences as a soldier in Vietnam and is amazed to discover that “this late in life I can begin to see that being drafted and sent to Vietnam may have been a blessing.” Another man posted how grateful he is to be free from addiction and out of prison.

That last was on a day when I mentioned that I was grateful for Polartec fabric. Compared to freedom from war, addiction, and prison, fabric is a pretty shallow thing to be grateful for, no matter how awesome Polartec may be or how much I would like to hug its brilliant inventor.

But that’s the key, isn’t it? The profound and the quotidian mix together in a song of thankfulness. Life isn’t all high mountains and deep valleys. We spend most of it simply wandering the plain, grateful for the simple pleasures of food and companionship.

This past week I’ve been grateful for small things, like the sunlight pouring in my office windows this morning or the fact that our dog seeks me out after every meal I serve him, presumably to thank me for his food. It’s adorable how he comes up and looks at me so earnestly until I pat him on the head and he can go on his way.

But I’ve also been profoundly grateful for heavier things, like the fact that my friend N and her Sikh husband, who live in Milwaukee, were not attending services at their temple on Sunday when a gunman opened fire there. I’m grateful for the life and kindness of my uncle who passed away this weekend, and also grateful that my husband and I can travel to attend the funeral to pay our respects.

Life and death, Polartec and daily bread (or Iams): this is the stuff of gratitude.


The image of a gratitude chalkboard is used with permission of

Topics: Faith, Doctrine & Practice
Beliefs: Bahá'í, Buddhism, Christian - Catholic, Christian - Orthodox, Christian - Protestant, Freethought (Atheist, Humanist, Agnostic), Hinduism, Interfaith, Islam, Judaism, Mormon, Other, Pagan, Sikh, Wicca & New Age
Tags: flunking sainthood, gratitude, gratitude b, gratitude challenge, gratitude project, jana riess, polartec is awesome, sikh temple shooting, simple pleasures, the vietnam war


  1. I am sorry for the loss of your uncle. I hope you will feel loved and comforted as you attend his funeral. Travel safely.

    I am not on Facebook- is it OK to post my “grateful for” today here? I am grateful for little cherubs whose smiles and pouts bring joy to my life.

  2. Ninja Duck, it is appropriate to post your gratitude status updates on this site, on billboards, on church signs, on Twitter, or your own t-shirt. Wherever and whenever—that is the right way to express gratitude! And thank you for your condolences.

  3. Beautiful piece here. Thank you. Yes, it’s always the little things which one recognizes as the greatest things. In ancient Egypy this realization was an integral part of the cult of Hathor. My article on this, `The Five Gifts of Hathor: Gratitude in Ancient Egypt’, appears on Ancient History Encyclopedia here:
    I hope you enjoy it as much as I’ve enjoyed reading this piece. All the best to you.

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