I think it is quite easy for many of us in ordinary circumstances to feel gratitude in Spring. The mornings are lighter, the weather drier and warmer, green shoots poke through the ground followed quickly by bright splashes of flowery colour, signalling the changing season. The winter period of rest and hibernation is ebbing away and the new season of growth and change calls to us in nature in every moment, in every exhibition of its very being.
And so it is easy (or at least, easier) in Spring to say ‘thank you’: for the green shoots, the snowdrops, daffodils and tulips, the buds on the trees and the bees emerging in the garden, birds greeting us with their dawn chorus, new life in the forest and longer days in which to enjoy and show our appreciation. In short, there are perhaps more opportunities to say ‘thank you’ for everything around us.
Of course this is not so for everyone around the world today. Natural disasters and man made atrocities can make for more difficult circumstances in which to find and express gratitude; to be able to hold a perspective in which ‘thank you’ can be said & felt following horrific events requires some presence of mind that I am perhaps several lifetimes away from achieving. And yet, if we watch the news, the tiniest stories matter as much as the life/death ones. In Japan, following the tsunami, a story about a child finding her school bag tells us something about what it feels like to glimpse into their ‘old’ normality (pre-tsunami) and the feeling and memories a small object invokes for that child; for another family finding a treasured photo album amidst the devastation enables them to keep that pictorial link to their ancestors and remember them with honour. The possibilities are endless, even in the most tragic of circumstances.
But we don’t need disasters or atrocities to focus our minds. It was World Water Day yesterday. Think about it for a moment – the clean water from our taps that we (mostly) take for granted is something that millions of people globally have to walk several kilometres a day just to collect, and even then its cleanliness isn’t guaranteed. We are now seeing water concerns in Japan. Can you remember the last time you didn’t have automatic access to clean water where you live? And the reactions of those around you when it happened?
I am in no way trying to undermine the horrors many people face day after day around the world. But what some people manage to say ‘thank you’ to in their lives could be very instructive for those of us in the West whose (largely) privileged lives mean that we take so much for granted. There are so many opportunities for us to say ‘thank you’ every day – often for ‘good’ things, but also for the inconveniences that bring us up short and into the moment. Our gratitude really can be transformational.