Several years ago a woman and her friend and their 5 children, all under the age of 6, attempted to go to the zoo. The friend had season passes, making for a fun, inexpensive day out! However, it was obvious from the minute she got in the car, that the friend was having a bad day.
They arrived at the zoo and it was packed! They had to park in the farthest parking lot, the one that wasn’t even paved. Then they trekked to the front gate pushing strollers overflowing with kid-stuff. After waiting in line for nearly an hour, the friend realized that she’d lost her wallet. She started to panic so they pulled the caravan over to the side and started looking through everything. The backpack, the diaper bag, the under the stroller storage area… nothing. She ran back to the car while the other mom watched the kids. Nothing. She searched her bags again, no luck.
So they told the kids that they weren't going to the zoo. The kids started crying. Then the mom’s started crying. They were all disappointed and frazzled.
Then a lady came over and took the mom’s hand. She said, “Here, take your kids to the zoo.” When she walked away the mom saw a $100 bill in her hand. $100! She tried to give it back. She explained that her friend just lost her wallet, they’d changed their minds about the zoo, and they didn’t need any money. But the lady refused to take back the $100.
Eventually the moms and kids hiked back to their cars. While packing up the car the friend found her wallet in the trunk. With a sigh of relief, they decided to just go to the park and have a picnic lunch.
As they were leaving the park one mom thought about breaking the $100 bill and handing out $20 to people. How fun would that have been?! But she actually felt embarrassed to do that. Who would think it would take courage to give away money?
The moms agreed that they would spend the money doing something fun for the kids, but they never spent it. For two or three years the money sat in a sock drawer in the home of one of the mom’s.
And then a friend’s husband got laid off and after six months of looking was still unemployed. The women knew that their friend had 4 kids to get ready for school, and a very tight budget. So they decided to give this other friend the $100, including it in a bag of hand-me-down clothes. They typed up a letter explaining the history of the money, put it and the money in an envelope and dropped it off along with the bag of clothes. Later that day the friend called to thank them for the clothes and the money.
I wonder if the woman at the zoo, who gave the $100 bill in the first place, carries around a $100 bill so she can help people in need? Think about it. $100 is enough money to actually change someone’s situation if they are stuck. It will fill a tank of gas. It will get a room for the night. It will replace a flat tire. It will feed a family. It will take a couple of women and their kids to the zoo. Story adapted from Enemy of Debt
Today the Stewardship Commission invites us into a season of Gratitude, into an opportunity to nurture an Attitude of Gratitude.
Nurturing an Attitude for Gratitude takes practice.
One way I nurture gratitude is through prayer and intentionality. Every yoga class begins with the teacher asking the students to sit comfortably, close our eyes, bring our hands to our hearts, and dedicate our practice. I always dedicate my practice to gratitude. I don’t always think more deeply about what that means, practicing gratitude. But I hope that the daily act of centering my yoga practice on gratitude infiltrates my being, like my breath, in and out.
Nurturing an Attitude of Gratitude requires effort to pay attention to the small voice of God, to things that seem coincidental. As Americans we are taught that what we have is the result of our good hard work, we earned it through our own effort. It’s a challenge to see, however, that in reality, everything we have and all that we are, come from God. Life is a gift.
Nurturing an Attitude of Gratitude opens us to notice all the ways God is interacting with human beings, ways that can be overlooked unless we are paying attention with a mind for seeing God in all things. Like placing a tea bag in a cup of water, and watching the tea slowly seep into the water, flavoring and coloring it; when we practice having an attitude of gratitude, gratitude will seep into the core of our being, enabling us to see God in the world around us, and turning us into grateful human beings who share their gratitude with everyone around them.
When was the last time you received a free gift? Not a gift for your birthday or Christmas, but a gift just because?
God’s grace is like that - a gift, just because. God’s grace manifests in unexpected ways and can even go unnoticed if we aren’t paying attention.
Have you ever been surprised by grace, by some unexpected blessing that could only have come from God? Would you know grace if it came your way? How about a beautiful sunset? Or, the delight we feel at being back in our church following the summer of outdoor services and chapel services, which are grace-filled in their own way? Perhaps you’ll experience grace during the amazing pot-luck that will follow this service? Maybe you were touched by the unbelievable work of many many people to clean up this building, or your home, following the flood? Do we notice the kindness around us? Or is it lost in the haze of violence and despair that exists in the world and fills the daily news?
Do you happen to notice moments of kindness or beauty, as gifts, as grace, from God? Or do you think they are just random events? What happens if you begin to see life as a gift from God, to be lived with gratitude, giving thanks to God who loves us?
Gratitude is one of the fundamental aspects of our Christian faith. But it takes practice to form it inside of us. Gratitude needs to be nurtured and nourished by the way we live our lives.
For the next eight weeks the Stewardship Commission invites us to nurture our attitude of gratitude. You will be provided with incentive to do this, and opportunities to share with others how this practice is taking shape in you. You’ve heard of the “Pay It Forward” concept? Well, think of this as a season of “Grace it Forward.” May it be a season in which we come to see the many blessings we are given by the grace of God, and may we, as the hands and heart of Christ, share the blessings with others as we Grace it Forward.