What is Gratitude?

The question, once asked,

lay heavy with uncertainty

about the answers it might bring.

Yet they came quickly and willingly

the nine-fold response

painting a clear picture,

defined in large, bold, brush strokes

as love and faith in action

and a recognition

that we are all blessed

if only we take the time to look.

Sometimes though, gratitude appears

as a benevolent mugger

catching us unawares,

giving gifts

instead of taking from us.

But mostly, gratitude is found

when we choose to seek her out,

our upturned faces taking time to recognise

her quiet and gentle presence

in the radiant glory of the morning,

a brief moment during the day or

the velvet stillness of the night.

Through journaling

quiet introspection, prayer

and honest examination

we see her shape and features.

But the most vivid colours  

of the artists palettes

appear in the finer detail.

No longer an abstract painting

or identikit, it becomes a true likeness,

a portrait that we all recognise –

walks on a wide golden beach,

safe landing at the airport,

a movie to watch,


fresh water,



All five senses

alive to the abundance

of the riches around us.

Swimming in the river,

a good book to read,

a hot steaming bath,

the warming energy of sunshine,

or perhaps a cosy chair

in front of a glowing winter fire.

Good education, modern medicine,

the sound of children playing,

red kites gliding overhead,

the smell of the earth after rain

or wild garlic in the woods.

Writing songs, stories and poetry,

knitting (and finishing) a scarf,

the first sign of seedlings,

a fine supper prepared

from random leftovers.

Fashioning clay and wood,

their textures and smells

enriching the experience,

deepening the satisfaction

of creating something

where once there was

raw nothingness.

What is gratitude I asked,

both curious and uncertain,

and in reply you painted a portrait

of beauty.

I asked nine friends to tell me what gratitude means to them. Some work a twelve-step programme, others follow in the way of Jesus, some do both and others neither. This this poem weaves together their many answers – definitions of gratitude, how to be more aware of it and the things they are grateful for. Many thanks to all of them for so willingly sharing their ideas and experiences.