A few days ago I waited at a stop sign for a bicycle to pass by, a dad with his daughter riding behind him on a trailer bike. As I watched them whiz past, the girl, no more than six years old, released her hold on the handlebars and spread her arms wide against the wind, her little legs pumping the pedals, hair flying behind from under her helmet.
A moment of gratitude for childhood and freedom, for these priceless memories, father and daughter having fun together. A moment of gratitude for the beautiful day, health, love and family.
Later, driving up the hill, a lone egret caught my eye, her graceful body standing erect, white against the green of the grass. Somehow, just watching that one egret, I felt ready to fly, filled with hope and joy.
Often these moments of gratitude are just that, a twinkling of a moment, so small it is easy to miss them if I don’t pay attention, so everyday that I feel it’s a miracle I notice them at all. My daughter’s face as she sits reading a book on her carpet before she realizes I am watching her. My son’s serious face as he plays the violin. The puppies huddled together as a pack on one doggie bed. Holding hands with Dar when we walk into the Farmers’ market. A piece of chocolate melting under my tongue.
My daughter’s Jewish Studies teacher calls these “I am grateful moments,” or in Hebrew, “Modeh Ani.” At school, she allows children to stand up in the morning and tell the entire group of first to third graders what their moment of gratitude is. My mother is going to have a baby today. I won a gymnastic competition. Wonderful, wonderful things happen to these wonderful kids.
According to Gretchen Rubin, the author of The Happiness Project, “Gratitude is a key to happiness,” and “consistently grateful people are happier and more satisfied with their lives.” I’ve noticed that whenever I let these moments of gratitude enter my life, my heart expands, I feel more connected to the world, and yes, happier, more full of joy.
Ms. Rubin recommends keeping a gratitude journal, writing a few words each day that express thankfulness for something that happened that day, or dedicating a few minutes every day to express gratitude verbally. I’ve decided to have a “moment of gratitude” tweet each day on twitter.
I love this quote by JFK: “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” As a writer, I am far too prone to utter words and then completely forget to live by them. But I hope that by writing my joy and being attentive to these moments of joy in order to express them, I will have assimilated the feeling of gratitude into every moment of life, whether it is good, bad, or in between.