Column: Gratitude Changes the Atmosphere

By The Rev. Nathan Hart

When our children were in their preschool years, my wife Nancy and I noticed that our dinnertime interactions were becoming increasingly more difficult. The kids were whining about the food, and we were scolding them for complaining. It became a vicious cycle of negativity. We weren’t sure how to reverse the trend, so we started asking more seasoned parents for ideas.

Someone recommended a gratitude journal. The idea was to have one member of the family write in a blank journal as everyone reported at least one thing for which they were grateful that day. This became a routine for us. When our plates were empty and our bellies full, we would bring out the gratitude journal and share it with each other. “I’m grateful for Mommy,” our son would report. “I’m grateful for our warm house and the love in our hearts,” I would often say. Our daughter scribbled colorful pictures of what she was grateful for until she learned how to spell.

Amazingly, it worked. We began seeing the vicious cycle reverse into a pattern of positivity, even before the journal was brought out.

Gratitude changes the atmosphere. Gratitude brings peace.

Instead of noticing—and complaining about—what we don’t have, we thanked God for the many gifts he’s given.

Perhaps that’s what the Apostle Paul meant when he wrote Philippians 4:6-7: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

If my dinner table is a microcosm of our entire society, then gratitude can change the atmosphere there, too. Let it begin with us.

Rev. Dr. Nathan Hart is the Senior Pastor of Stanwich Congregational Church

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