In reading, Radical Gratitude by Mary Jo Leddy, I have been continually moved by the snippet that I have been reading each day. If you’ve ever felt like you were led to a book just at the time you needed it, you’d be sharing my experience with this book. I’ve had the book in my stack of “should read” books for several years but I sense the Spirit had the book pop out to me right now.
Leddy illustrates the penetrating power that comes from reorienting what you focus on. You can feel a familiar sense of dread and strain if you see clearly what’s not going right and on what you or someone else needs to change. She writes, “Our lives are directed by the stories we choose to dwell on and in.”[i] Gratitude is possible even in the midst of great difficulty and suffering because we do not have to let our struggles be our defining moments.
As I write this, I am remembering as a hospital chaplain sitting across from a man who was dying from facial cancer. He had a large open sore in his mouth; his face was deformed and he could not see clearly anymore because of the cancer. He looked at me honestly and said, “I have so much to be thankful for!”
So often, being a sensitive person, I can tell you so quickly what’s been difficult or hurtful while I struggle to notice the simple good things that each day holds. I tend to challenge myself to grow, to be more loving and more alive so I can be more loving to others.
While this sounds good and generous I suppose, what Leddy and this man with cancer helped me see is that this pursuit of growth in virtues includes a general dissatisfaction with self, even in small things. Leddy writes, “I am struck by how gratitude involves some radical satisfaction with life, with oneself and with the world.” We have to trust that who we are and what we have is fundamentally enough. We become more holy and more receptive to life through gratitude when we say, according to Leddy, that “I am enough,… I have been given an unrepeatable mission…and I can make a difference”[ii] starting right now.
In cultivating this deep sense of our own goodness and the significance of our calling or vocation no matter what challenges we have, we realize “I do not have to be different or better than I am to find a measure of happiness and to be able to make a difference in the world.”[iii]
I saw this in my patient, with his unflappable sense of being blessed; he saw his life in terms of what he had and not for what he was missing. His gratitude for life stimulated a deep desire in me to give him my best to be a blessing to him!
What about you? Where is God leading you to just believe you are enough today? ~ Mary
[i] Leddy, Mary Jo, Radical Gratitude, Orbis Books, Maryknoll, NY, 2006, p 50
[ii] P 53
[iii] P. 53