A young child in the store today summed up the two greatest gifts of life in three short statements. I'm not sure what Mom's frustration was in that moment, but it was etched on her face, grinding a sharp edge into her voice, and infusing her body with tension. Her little daughter, seated in the shopping cart and facing her, was maybe 4 years old. Brow furrowed in earnestness and face aglow with that perfect and innocent trust found mostly in infants, toddlers, and preschoolers, she looked up and said, "It's okay, Mommy. You're okay. I'm glad you're my mommy every day."

Just like that. Forgiveness. Gratitude. Love made manifest. Life redeemed. This four-year-old child created a miracle of grace in the cold, concrete, fluorescent aisle of a big box store.

And just like that, this little girl helped Mom hit her personal brakes and change direction. Mom parted with a sigh of release and smiled down at her daughter with such tenderness that it caught at my own breath. They hugged and had a whispered conversation. I walked on by this random moment of beauty, my heart swelling with love for the whole world.

Forgiveness and gratitude. We think of them, maybe as gifts we give, rather than gifts we receive. And both are true. I forgive others for pain they cause me, and I am grateful to others, consciously and almost every minute, for their many gifts in my life. And the giving of these twin gifts feels good to me. In fact, sometimes it feels a little too good and I get to thinking I'm something special because I have forgiveness in my heart, and because in my life I lead with gratitude.

The truth is that, if anything makes me special, it's the fact that I receive these gifts. And that makes me no more, or less, special than anyone else, for this truth is for all of us. It's the receiving that shows us and the world the divine lights we really are.

Now, wait. Before you begin to tell me all the ways you've not been forgiven, no matter how much you apologized or strove for amends, or all the times your goodness in the world has been taken for granted, rather than honored with gratitude, please just read on a bit. I actually am not referring to the little-g gifts of gratitude and forgiveness. What I am talking about is something other than receiving the absolution of interpersonal forgiveness, or of receiving another person's expression of gratitude for who you are or what you've done.

I'm referring to the Big-G Gifts of Forgiveness and Gratitude. These beatitudes -- supreme blessings -- are available to all of us and to each of us. But most of us don't know of these blessings; don't experience them yet. You see, I believe that there is a Childhood Treasures-based, first and necessary step of Acceptance, before gratitude and forgiveness can be truly experienced in our day-to-day living and interpersonal transactions.

First, I have to -- we have to -- accept these Gifts as facets of the universe. I must know in my deepest ways of knowing that these supreme blessings, these exalted joys, inhabit life with me. I must not just think it is so, or feel as if it is so. I must be certain. Rock solid certain, with no room for doubt. First, I accept that the supreme blessings of Forgiveness and Gratitude are here, within me and all around me, in abundance, every moment. In many faiths, these are features of a deity, the creator. And in multi-theistic faiths, individual gods and goddesses stand as archetypal manifestations of these Gifts.

So, this acceptance -- that we inhabit the same universe as Gratitude, as Forgiveness, and that these Gifts inhabit us -- that is what I mean about the receipt of these Gifts being a truth for all of us. In fact, this acceptance of the beatitudes of Gratitude and Forgiveness is the only thing that allows me to then, vulnerably and authentically, give and receive the little-g versions of these gifts in my daily life.

The omnipresence of these blessings, for me, accounts for that little girl's access to redemption for her mom's pain. Even the sterile, noisy, commercial environment of a big box store on a December Saturday holds the ever-present grace of Gratitude and Forgiveness.

Now, as I accept and embrace the universal presence of these Gifts, when I say that I forgive, I can really mean it, really do it, for I know, with certainty, that Forgiveness fills me and surrounds me, like the air that I breathe. I hold onto no shreds of regret or blame; no grudge hitches itself to my mental wagon. The release of forgiveness becomes as simple as an exhale.

When I say I am grateful, my little-g gratitude sparkles as a drop of water at the crest of a wave on the Gratitude ocean in which I swim. No sodden cape of jealousy or pride pulls me below the sparkling surface into the depths of shame. Gratitude as a moment-by-moment practice becomes as unconscious as floating (for the buoyant), as joyful as splashing in the ocean surf.

Receipt of the little-g gifts of gratitude and forgiveness works the same way. When someone forgives me, I can accept that forgiveness, believe in it, and forgive myself, because I know that Forgiveness abides. I am certain that Exalted Forgiveness lives and breathes and has its being in me, making receipt of your forgiveness as easy as an inhale. When someone expresses their gratitude to me, I can feel the blessing of that gift washing over me, can believe in its purity, knowing that it flows from the Great Gratitude Gift.

This year, let's celebrate the Season of Receiving. Receive into your heart, mind, and soul the twin Gifts, the beatitudes, of Gratitude and Forgiveness. This year, let's open our hearts to the Truth that these supreme blessings are alive in our world; that they abide within and surround each of us, regardless of our stations in life, education, income, appearance, ability, or skills.

I send bright blessings of this season of light to you and to all whom you hold dear. Let's all get out there and RECEIVE!!

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Dr. L. Carol Scott.

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