It was a dark and stormy night… Isn’t that the way that Snoopy would begin his novels in the Peanuts comic strip? Perhaps he did it because that phrase paints a certain picture, sets a certain emotional stage with which we can all relate, especially on these dark and rainy Oregon December nights. It WAS a dark and stormy night last week when I decided to swing by Costco on my way home. Even at the height of Christmas shopping, I find arriving at Costco about suppertime (6:00 or so) is a good tactic. The crowds always seem to thin out a little and it is easier to make it through the check-out with a minimum of waiting.
So I did my usual shopping (I now have plenty of paper products to last the next 6 months!), and a little extraordinary shopping for those on my gift list. And then I headed over to the gas station, for a fill-up in more ways than one. The gas station was busier than the store, it seemed, and we were lined up at every pump. So it was easy for me to overhear the conversation between the gas station attendant and the driver of the car one lane over. While I waited for my tank to fill, I heard this other driver say, “Fill it with regular, please. Oh, and I’d like to pay for the car just behind me as well.”
I was intrigued. So even though it was still dark and stormy, and I was surely going to get wet, I climbed out of my car and walked over to my neighbor’s. “Excuse me,” I said, “I couldn’t help but overhear. Do you know the driver behind you? Are you traveling together?” “Oh no,” she said, laughing a little. “This is just something I do for myself every so often.”
That took me aback, and I wondered if I had heard her correctly. “Something you do for YOURSELF?” “Why, yes”, she said, “I find it helps me to practice gratitude if I also practice generosity.” Then, this stranger winked at me, leaned a little farther out her car window and said, “And let’s face it, don’t we all need a little help with gratitude when the roads are so busy, the stores are so clogged, and the days are so rainy and dark?”
Indeed. I think we do all need a little help with gratitude, on all our dark and stormy nights and even in the brightest mornings. We all need the help for our daily living which comes from practicing gratitude. And one of the best ways I know to get that help is to also practice generosity. That is one reason why we consider bringing our gifts – the offering – a central part of worship. That is one reason why so many of us will pick cards off community “Giving Trees” or buy toys for needy children or bring pajamas to the Goose Hollow Family Shelter this Christmas. Because practicing generosity leads to practicing gratitude.
Practicing gratitude – practicing generosity… it’s a good thing to do for ourselves every so often, maybe even every day in some small way! As you might imagine, I left that gas station with my heart as well as my tank on full. And I thank God for the Light which shone through that dark and stormy night for me.
Grace and Peace,