These are the last words spoken by Dr. Randall Mindy, portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio in the Netflix movie Don’t Look Up. This film shows how a distracted society decides to give its attention to an impending crisis. When Dr. Mindy speaks those words, he is expressing gratitude—but in the context of deep regret.
This idea of not realizing how good life is, how richly blessed we are, until it is gone or something terrible happens is a repeating theme in music, literature and art. All too often we carelessly pave paradise and put up a parking lot. In Portuguese there is a word for this appreciative melancholy hindsight: saudade.
As common as it may be, this gratitude-in-the-midst-of-regret, this saudade, is not inevitable. You can actually use gratitude to transform yourself and your community of faith by focusing on all that you have now, before regretting all that you have lost. Looking at your abundance and resources to find pathways to engagement and ideas for meaningful ministry is a powerful practice that Luther K. Snow calls Asset Mapping.
Snow often talks about “cup half-full thinking”. By naming your assets—property, possessions, networks, skills, and more—you can recognize and rediscover the abundance of God’s gifts, and break out of cycles of need, dependency and scarcity thinking. Science has even proven it, feeling gratitude for all that you have, and talking about it, helps you think creatively, stay positive and hopeful, and problem solve with better results.
Let’s start here. Take 15 minutes and write down your answers these questions:
- Where do you work and/or volunteer?
- What are you good at? What do you know a lot about?
- What are some of your personal, physical assets (like property or possessions)?
- What are some strengths you don’t often use?
- What are some of your congregation’s assets?
- What are some of your neighbourhood or community’s assets?
- What signs of God’s grace have you witnessed lately?
When you see all these gifts, talents and abundance written down, how do you feel? I hope gratitude comes to mind. Maybe excitement or eagerness. How about hope? When you realize the abundance you have, even if tomorrow brings challenges, the gratitude you practice today will shape your response.
The same can be true for your church.
What if the Board or the Council of your congregation did this exercise together? You might be surprised at how many assets your community of faith has access to, and what could be possible. Again, discovering abundance leads to gratitude. Instead of looking back, with remorse, to the way things used to be, like Dr. Mindy did in the movie, let gratitude for what you have now be the fuel that encourages you to look ahead.
Every day we have an opportunity to use our resources to take risks in new ways of living the faith. Portugal may have great beaches and sea food, but they can keep saudade. Let’s start with gratitude!
By Vicki Nelson, Community of Faith Stewardship Support for Pacific Mountain, Northern Spirit, Chinook Winds, Living Skies and Prairie to Pine Regions of the United Church of Canada.
To get more ideas that you can try with your community of faith, please subscribe to the free monthly e-newsletter God’s Mission-Our Gifts.