Gratitude & Distraction

Written by on November 24, 2014

I am reminded this Thanksgiving week of Christine Pohl’s words on gratitude. She writes,


“Our capacity for gratitude is not connected with an abundance of resources but rather with a capacity to notice what it is that we do have.”[i]


Our capacity for gratitude is connected to our capacity to notice… 


We can live such distracted lives. Sitcoms and baseball games, doctor’s appointments and beauty magazines, laptops and hurricane updates and piano recitals, beer ads, Bible studies—all of these clamor, crowd, and compete for our attention. “We are very distractible people in a very distracting world”, writes Leighton Ford.[ii] We so rarely exercise an undivided attention. Our distracted minds seem to have little space for the things that matter most to us, the things that actually need our undivided attention.


When we fail to regularly reflect upon what we are thankful for, we lose sight of both the gifts and the givers in our lives.


A simple practice that many have found beneficial to cultivating focused attention and, in turn, gratefulness in their lives is the practice of regularly writing small notes of thanks to people who come to mind. These are not long letters, but rather short notes of affirmation and gratitude that come from a sincere heart.


Perhaps it is friend who we have taken for granted. Perhaps it is a business in your community that has consistently provided you and/or your family good service and you want to drop a short note of thanks to the business owner. Or it simply could be a teacher of one of your children or grandchildren to whom you simply want to say, “Thanks, I appreciate you and your work.”


Some attach this practice to an evening meal in which a family may reflect together upon who and what they are thankful for; and then they compose a short and sincere note to that person. Such gratitude can inject life into both the receiver and the giver. For gratitude is contagious. Both kids and adults can share in this practice. It is helpful to always have a set of cards or notes on hand for this purpose. 


Our capacity for gratitude is connected to our capacity to notice…


What gratitude have you been holding onto? Are there some people you need to say thanks to?  For those of you celebrating Thanksgiving in the U.S. this week I wonder whether you might make some space for yourself and/or your family to pen a short handwritten note of thanks to whomever comes to mind.  May the Spirit stir and shape within you a heart of gratitude….


O God,
rouse us to thanksgiving
because we belong to your family.

Wake the sleeper in us….

O God,
Keep open our minds, our souls, our hearts.
Amen. [iii]


[This blog entry is adapted from material in VP3’s A Way of Life — Stage 2, Session 2: Living Gratefully) 






[i] Christine D. Pohl, Living into Community: Cultivating Practices that Sustain Us (Eerdmans, 2012), 27.

[ii] Leighton Ford, The Attentive Life: Discerning God’s Presence in All Things (InterVarsity Press, 2008), 23.

[iii] Taken from Don Postema, Space for God: Study and Practice of Spirituality and Prayer A Study Guide (CRC Publications), 25.

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