|Be grateful for things that
otherwise might be taken for granted, like sight, air, scents, the
countless elements of one's surroundings that sustain and uplift
The network of
Gratefulness.org sends its spiritual message around the Web
By THOMAS C. FOX
Thanksgiving is coming, a time to celebrate gratefulness. Gratitude,
its said, is the highest prayer form. To live gratefully is to live in a
state of conscious relationship, a Trinity-like awareness. So universal, so
fundamental is the notion of gratitude, the Thanksgiving holiday seems to defy
the secularization Christmas has suffered.
We readily give thanks for things we perceive to be beneficial, but what
if, in a state of sustained gratefulness, we were thankful for any fortune,
good or bad -- grateful for simply being? The good souls at A Network for
Grateful Living (ANG*L) have some answers to that question. Their thoughts on
gratefulness are reaching tens of thousands daily at
The staff at ANG*L initially came together in 2000 to support the
writings of Benedictine Br. David Steindl-Rast, 81, whose lifelong passion to
spread the practice of gratefulness is attracting a burst of global
Only a few years back, Steindl-Rast was known and admired in somewhat
isolated circles in the United States and Europe. Today, largely because of the
creative networking that ANG*L has been doing at gratefulness.org,
thousands are hearing his words and following his practices on a daily
Gratefulness.org first went live on the Internet in 2000.
Patricia Campbell Carlson, the executive director of ANG*L, said that in those
days maybe a handful of people might have stumbled upon the Web site in a given
day. No longer.
Its been quite amazing, Carlson said. Our Web
log shows 11,000 hits daily within the U.S. and 17,000 more each day outside
the U.S. And the number keeps growing.
Carlson lives in Ithaca, N.Y., where ANG*L, a nonprofit organization, is
a half-hour car ride away from Elmira, N.Y., where Steindl-Rast lives
gratefully at Mount Savior Benedictine Monastery.
Carlson is happy to note that one of the Web sites most popular
features, Light a Candle, now appears in 14 languages. But what
especially delights her is the worldwide growth of interest in the ideas and
practices of gratefulness.
To hear it from the ANG*L staff, to be grateful for all things is to be
grateful for many little things, things that otherwise might be taken for
granted, like sight, air, scents, the countless elements of ones
surroundings that sustain and uplift the soul.
Living gratefully, ANG*L writers point out, leads to attitudes of
profound appreciation -- and leads to a sense of frugality, which, in turn,
leads to a simple lifestyle and care for the environment.
ANG*L now sees its work as tied to ministries, said Carlson, of
personal healing, cross-cultural understanding, interfaith dialogue,
intergenerational respect and ecological sustainability.
-- NCR Staff/gratefulness.org
|An altar for candle lighting to
share intentions and prayers
The work at gratefulness.org is accomplished by a handful of
staff members and sustained with the help of like-minded authors and a board
responsible for its fiscal well-being. In her 2005-06 annual report, Carlson
ticked off new milestones that have been passed, including ministering to
hundreds of thousands in 242 countries since 2000 and an 80.5
percent increase in donors over the year, bringing the total to 574. The donors
include staff who return part of their salaries, intending to assure the
legacy of Br. David Steindl-Rast.
But, writes Carlson in the report, the accomplishment of which we
feel most proud does not lend itself to a list. It is an internal orientation
within the human heart toward a more grateful world. When enough of us come
together and face the same direction, giving our lives in response to all that
has been freely given to us, we quite naturally reorient those around
So what are people finding at gratefulness.org? First, a refuge
of calm. On the site are lessons and readings concerning gratefulness;
applications for daily practices; an altar for candle lighting to share
intentions and prayers; opportunities to locate local groups already formed
around gratefulness or steps to form ones own; e-cards to send to family
and friends; and signup spots for a daily gratefulness note or a monthly
newsletter that now reaches 20,000. A labyrinth pilgrimage page takes visitors
through a maze of gratefulness quotations and photos from different religious
traditions around the world. Finally, there is a news section highlighting
stories whose themes touch on spirit and gratitude.
Gratefulness is always about an opportunity, Carlson said.
Even when we are faced with difficulties, grief and sorrow we can respond
in a positive way, and thats a real blessing.
The starting point for grateful living, she concluded,
is the understanding that everything is given to us for free, as a gift,
starting with life itself. So if we approach our lives that way, feeling like
we are open for surprise, to see what is next, then we remain open to improve
our lives and the situations around us.
Thanksgiving, it appears, is every day at gratefulness.org.
Thomas C. Fox, former NCR editor and publisher, interviews people
of interest for podcasts on NCRcafe.org.
Give thanks for a little and you will find a lot.
-- Nigerian proverb
The happy heart gives away the best. To know how to receive is also a
most important gift, which cultivates generosity in others and keeps strong the
cycle of life.
-- Venerable Dhyani Ywahoo, speaker, author, musician and spiritual
leader in the Eastern Tsalagi (Cherokee) tradition
Under affliction in the very depths, stop and contemplate what you
have to be grateful for.
-- Mary Baker Eddy, founder of Christian Science
A thankful person is thankful under all circumstances. A complaining
soul complains even in paradise.
-- Bahaullah, founder of the Bahai faith
As life becomes harder and more threatening, it also becomes richer,
because the fewer expectations we have, the more good things of life become
unexpected gifts that we accept with gratitude.
-- Etty Hillesum, Dutch Jewish writer known for her diaries and
correspondence from Westerbork concentration camp
Grateful living: an alchemic operation of converting
disgraceful things into grateful events.
-- Raimundo Panikkar, Roman Catholic priest from Spain specializing in
comparative philosophy of religion
Gratitude for the gift of life is the primary wellspring of all
religions,the hallmark of the mystic, and the source of all true art. .... It
is a privilege to be alive in this time when we can choose to take part in the
self-healing of our world.
-- Joanna Macy, eco-philosopher and scholar of Buddhism
Gratitude is the most exquisite form of courtesy.
-- Jacques Maritain, French philosopher and political thinker
Thankfulness brings you to the place where the Beloved lives.
-- Jalaluddin Rumi, Persian Sufi poet
Sanctity has to do with gratitude. To be a saint is to be fueled by
gratitude, nothing more and nothing less.
-- Oblate Fr. Ronald Rolheiser