THE GIFT of GRATITUDE: Lessons in Gratitude Sometimes Run You Over


by Rudi Harst

“To speak gratitude is courteous and pleasant, to enact gratitude is generous and noble, but to live gratitude is to touch Heaven.” – Johannes A. Gaertner

The cute little puppy that we gave our son for Christmas last year has grown into a sweet but solid 45-pound bundle of muscular energy. Zoe is pretty docile 95 percent of the time, but she can really move when she gets excited, which is what happened recently when she and I strolled out to the mailbox together. Suddenly, she saw a squirrel and went dashing past me, smashing into my legs and bowling me over. That hurt!

I got really mad at Zoe, because I could immediately feel that my lower back had been knocked out of whack. Fortunately, I have a great chiropractor I’ve been seeing periodically for more than 20 years, so I immediately phoned his office for an appointment. Unfortunately, by the time I saw him the next morning, I was in a lot of pain. Fortunately, it didn’t seem like any permanent damage had been done, but my sacrum and L-5 (lower lumbar disc) had been jammed tight. The chiropractor strongly suggested that I use the next few days to get a series of chiropractic treatments (unbudgeted, uninsured medical expenses), minimize movement (major inconvenience), maximize bed rest (more inconvenience) and spend time icing the soreness (distinctly unpleasant sensation). Boy, was I ever mad at Zoe when I came home from my appointment.

Reflections in Action

An interesting thing happened over the next few days, as I cut back on my workload, avoided the discomfort of sitting at my desk, and spent many hours in bed, becoming intimately acquainted with an ice pack. I soon came face-to-face with the awareness of how much time I tend to spend at my desk, banging on the computer and hanging onto the phone. I realized how much energy I tend to expend in planning, thinking and worrying about the finances and the logistics of the three public gatherings my wife and I produce each week.

Lying down, nursing my aching back with Zoe sweetly sprawled out on the floor right next to me for hours on end, I found my anger with her shift to a deep sense of gratitude. For this period of enforced rest. For the awareness of how much I’ve become tied to my desk. For the reminder of how much I love to exercise – and how seldom I’ve been doing it in recent months (years?) simply because I’ve been “too busy.” And for a pointed demonstration of the precious, precarious nature of life, how the circumstances can drastically change in one moment as a result of one brief fall, one phone call and one seemingly innocuous shove from a puppy.

Focusing on Gratitude

One week, two ice packs, four chiropractic treatments and multiple homeopathic remedies later, my back is much better and my heart is full of gratitude to Zoe. For forcing me to rest and slow down, for getting me away from my desk, for helping me get back on track with daily exercise, and for reminding me just how precious and wonderful this life is. And for helping me get a head start on celebrating Thanksgiving, too. Swimming in a sea of gratitude, I find myself giving thanks for this wonderful dog and the valuable lessons she has taught me.

RudyHearstRudi Harst is a writer, performance artist and Spiritual Director of the Celebration Circle, an inclusive, interfaith community with a creative approach to spirituality. The Circle is grateful to have been meeting every Sunday morning in the Blue Star Arts Complex for the past nine years, and will be moving to their new location in the SA Garden Center starting of Nov.17. For more information, visit

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