It is through surprise our inner eyes are opened to the amazing fact that everything is gratuitous, given freely with no expected return.
I am grateful to have had the time and resources to walk across France and Spain. Every day on pilgrimage is a gift, not always appreciated at the time. Thousands, if not millions, of others have gone before me and many of them have smoothed the way for novices like me. Pilgrim associations have created maps and markings. Enterprising locals have opened their cafes, homes and hearts to passing pilgrims. I am continually surprised at their kindness to strangers. They must see so many people walking through their towns and villages, not all of them as grateful as I am for the provided amenities.
Openness and surprise are at the heart of gratefulness. When I pay attention to the environment around me and am open to experience, I am surprised and delighted at almost every turn. David Steindl-Rast writes that it is “through surprise our inner eyes are opened to the amazing fact that everything is gratuitous,” given freely with no expected return. We should take nothing for granted. The truth is that all we experience and have is pure gift. We are dependent on the earth, its fruitfulness, beauty and renewal, as well as on others, their hospitality, maps, and kindness. When we acknowledge and mindfully appreciate this we come alive.
As I walked across the Aubrac plateau I saw snow-capped mountains on the horizon. I stood and soaked in the view of craggy peaks while at my feet small white flowers struggled through the damp, recently frozen soil. I marveled at their slightness and persistence in the face of the still wintery days. How blessed I was to see these mountains, these star-faced flowers! Only in this place, on this clear-skied day were these sights possible. I was alive to this place and so grateful to be there as witness to these miracles.