I found a shiny penny on the ground last week—a penny so bright it looked fake. As I picked it up, I noticed it’s a new one: 2018.
Yes, I pick up pennies. They remind me to not take little things for granted—to instead be grateful for them. As I pocketed the penny, I thought of the phrase, “both sides of the same coin” and wondered if a coin might work as a metaphor for gratitude.
At first I didn’t like the coin comparison—it implies commodification. But then again, maybe gratitude is a kind of currency.
As I’ve shared most everywhere, on the first of August, I was accepted for a writing residency at the Vermont Studio Center. Delight! Heel-clicking glee! Small problem: even though VSC awarded me a partial grant, the balance due was still big. Since my residency was awarded at the start of their season, I only had two weeks to pay in full, and that wasn’t enough time to apply for more grants. So I swallowed my pride and asked for help. Art orders, book orders, and donations poured in. (PS: Thanks for your patience on commissioned paintings!)
My Gratitude-O-Meter entered the stratosphere. It was a whirlwind of what Anne Lamott calls the three main prayers: Help! Thanks! Wow! (The exclamation marks are my addition!)
What I didn’t mention when I shared my news was that I had been accepted to VSC almost ten years before. But that heel-clicking glee tripped on the curb of lack. Or perceived lack. I told myself a residency was too expensive. I invested more heavily in limitation than in gratitude, and I got what I “bought.”
Aside #1: I’ve turned down many opportunities I couldn’t afford. But for those, I didn’t feel a powerful “yes!” followed by a self-imposed, hope-killing “no.” I’ve learned that though I can’t do everything, I can listen for the things I am meant to do. Aside #2: I practice gratitude daily, for mostly mundane things. Some days, my gratitude journal is filled with uninspired entries like, “I’m grateful for a roof over my head.” But then, in wildfire season when friends have lost homes, I write that like I mean it, because I do. I believe that consistent gratefulness in the littles leads to exponential gratefulness in the bigs.
In other words: investing in gratitude yields many happy returns—for ourselves and for others.
One of my many freelance jobs is working with my dear friend, Christina Ammon, for her company, Deep Travel Workshops. We take people on writing adventures around the world. This year, Deep Travel was able to do a pretty marvelous thing: at Book Passage’s annual Travel Writers and Photographers Conference, it offered a free international trip as the award for the conference’s essay contest winner. More glee! More bubbly! We were as happy as the recipient.
Within days of receiving big good, I was able to help give big good. Even though one event didn’t cause the other, they were linked by hefty prayers of Thanks!
Some days, we get the chance to up our own gratitude, and some days we get to give that chance—and not necessarily in that order. Gratitude works whichever way the coin is facing when we reach for it.
To get punny, I could say that this year has minted a new coin of gratitude in my life. But I won’t (winky face here).
Speaking of winking, perhaps the coin of gratitude is doing that right now, as if it knows its multifaceted power and is waiting for us to discover it in new ways. Perhaps the rest of 2018 is gleaming with shiny new ways to give thanks—if we’re willing to look for them. If gratitude is currency, then we have bottomless treasuries.
Thank you and you’re welcome,