Gratitude is broadly defined as the quality of being thankful; having a readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness. In researching a bit further, I found a study within the academic field of Applied Positive Psychology that demonstrate having an attitude of gratitude has positive influence on our quality of life. Therapist Derrick Carpenter states, “People who regularly practice gratitude by taking time to notice and reflect upon the things they’re thankful for experience more positive emotions, feel more alive, sleep better, express more compassion and kindness, and even have stronger immune systems.”
Life is better lived in a state of gratitude. But it’s not always easy! Bad things happen, struggles arise, and troubles persist, both in personal and community life. Sometimes the difficulties are long term with no resolution in sight. In these moments especially, I find it helpful to ground myself in small snippets of gratitude. I stop to recognize the gift of a hot cup of coffee or a smile from a stranger, a flowering tree or a song on the radio, a warm breeze or a splash of sunshine. Further, I make myself say out loud: “Thank you!” The words may be spoken to the wind, a person, or are offered to God as a prayer. When the going gets rough and the day is tough, I stop, take a breath, and open my eyes and my heart to discern gratitude. And I give thanks.
Then there are moments when gratitude comes easily, when words and feelings of appreciation flow easily and generously, from our mouths and from our hearts. We’re facing such a moment this month in the life of our church. After seventeen years as Director of Christian Education, Lori Bennett is retiring. Having coordinated hundreds of Sunday school lessons and Pilgrim Fellowship meetings, dozens of service projects and mission trips, and countless other programs and activities for the children and youth of our church for more than a decade and a half (including more hugs and smiles than could ever be counted!), Lori is ready to leave our staff and step into other roles in the life of our church. Her CE ministry has richly blessed our church, touching the lives of everyone — children and youth, teachers and youth sponsors, pastors and other staff, committees, the Board, church members, visitors and friends of all ages. She has blessed us in more ways than can possibly be named, and we are grateful.
Lori’s last official day on staff will be Sunday, June 30. But she won’t be here that day! She’ll be in New York City with Pilgrim Fellowship on their summer mission trip. So, we have scheduled the celebration of her ministry for the Sunday before, June 23. We’ll celebrate her ministry together in worship, and with a special reception in Parish Hall afterward. Mrs. B has given us so much to be thankful for! Please plan to join us in showing our gratitude for her faithful, loving and generous ministry here at First Church Congregational. It’s going to be a wonderful day. You don’t want to miss it!
See you in church! - Bill