In his opening remarks to the U.C. Berkeley Greater Good Science Center “Gratitude & Well-Being at Work” conference, held last November in San Francisco, “gratitude guru” Dr. Robert Emmons pointed out that there are two aspects of gratitude: the part where we’re grateful for something and the part where we’re grateful to something, that “something” being, in Emmons words, “a person, a spiritual force, a spiritual being,” or even a pet.
Personally, as much as I have to be grateful for – my family, my friends, my work, my home, my dog – what excites me most is having something to be grateful to.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been inclined to see God as our always present and hugely generous source of good. Not material good, per se, but the kind of good that resides deep inside our hearts, unaffected and undiminished by whatever circumstances we might find ourselves facing that would try and convince us that, in fact, we have very little to be grateful for. A job loss. The passing of a loved one. Failing health.
Some might characterize this sense of God’s presence, God’s goodness, as nothing more than “peace of mind,” but I tend to think of it more in terms of divine assurance. It’s the best and, frankly, only way I can think of to explain that happiness and contentment I feel when there’s nothing in particular for me to feel happy about. And the interesting thing is, the more I find myself consciously paying attention to this assurance – giving God the credit for all things good in my life – the less I find myself being upended by life’s speed bumps; I literally feel better, both mentally and physically.
I want to be clear, though. For me, God isn’t some sort of Santa Claus in the sky doling out treats to those worthy enough of His/Her love. As I see it, everyone is worthy of this love, this goodness – not in the sense of it being a commodity, but as an essential element of that eternally loving divine Principle that I feel certain governs one and all.
In a letter to the members of a Christian Science church in New York, Mary Baker Eddy wrote, “As an active portion of one stupendous whole, goodness identifies man with universal good. Thus may each member of this church rise above the oft-repeated inquiry, What am I? to the scientific response: I am able to impart truth, health, and happiness, and this is my rock of salvation and my reason for existing.”
Indeed, we all have much to give to others, the realization of which comes from a deep-seated recognition of what we’ve already been given – and continue to be given – by God.