Our theme this week is gratitude, and right now I’m thinking of things I’m grateful for, like a newborn with his hand wrapped tightly around my pinkie… birthday parties and graduations… sunsets, rainbows, and bacon on a griddle. I’m thinking of the technology that enables me to write this sentence, and of family, friends, health, happiness, and truth. And there’s the New York Philharmonic concert I attended on a clear summer night in Central Park in 1978. Amazing. And there’s my first bicycle, first date and (blush) first kiss...and the many teachers who shaped my life, especially my sixth-grade teacher who took me aside one day and told me that she believed I could someday become president. Guess what? I believed her, and maybe for the first time in my life, I believed in me, too.
Then there’s the moment I first laid eyes on Linda Wesner, who 3 ½ years later became my bride. Other than receiving the love of God, no other love in my life has come remotely close to hers. Oh, did I mention pain? I’ve lived long enough to understand its incredible value and be grateful for all of it.
You might say that gratitude and I have become good friends over the years, but it wasn’t always that way. Like a new coat, gratitude is something you need to try on several times before you buy it, but after you’ve worn it awhile it seems (and feels) just perfect. Gratitude is strength, humility, hope, and love, all wrapped up in one big beautiful gift called life. Do you enjoy life or endure it? Your answer will depend on the amount of gratitude in your heart.
Close your eyes. Be still. Count your breaths fifty times. By the time you get to forty, you’ll begin to feel what you’ve just read. You’ll also feel more grateful. Enjoy that feeling. It’s why you’re here! As Solomon put it (Ecclesiastes 11:8), “However many years a man may live, let him enjoy them all…” Amen.