The Gratitude List

gratitude listA friend of mine was stuck in traffic in New York City late on a summer Friday afternoon. He was really stuck—sitting in his car on a narrow east-west cross street in Manhattan, going nowhere. He grew impatient, then angry. After a while, he started to think about how pitiful his life was. His friends were smarter, wealthier, happier than he was. He hadn’t accomplished anything significant. He was stuck in life, just as he was stuck in traffic.

Then he called a friend and asked for help. The guy said, “If you’re just sitting there in traffic, make a gratitude list.” So my friend pulled out a notebook and pen and made a list of all the things he was grateful for. A few were big things—family, friends, job—but most of them were little things. The weekend coming up. An excellent novel he was reading. A compliment from his boss the previous day. An exhilarating jog along the East River that morning. His comfortable car. Soon his mood lifted. The exercise in gratitude restored balance to his thinking. It wasn’t a trick. My friend saw that his life really was full of good things. Gratitude was the truth.

I recently ran across a comment on gratitude by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. “We pray for the big things and forget to give thanks for the ordinary, small (and yet really not small) gifts,” he said. We strive for the grand spiritual adventure, which we haven’t had, and neglect the many gifts from God that we do have. Bonhoeffer urges us to “be satisfied with the small measure of spiritual knowledge, experience, and love that has been given us.”

Make a gratitude list.

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Jim Manney
Jim Manney is the author of highly praised popular books on Ignatian spirituality, including A Simple, Life-Changing Prayer (about the Daily Examen) and God Finds Us (about the Spiritual Exercises). He is the compiler/editor of An Ignatian Book of Days. His latest book is What Matters Most and Why. He and his wife live in Ann Arbor, Michigan.


  1. Thank you for these examples of how to get started with expressions of gratitude. The email to ‘self’ (for those of us who work from laptops daily), and each time we stop at a red light! What great ideas…. Im starting today!!

  2. I’ve just started emailing myself – every day – with ten (different) things I am grateful for. I am up to 70 and going on till I reach 1000!!

  3. I have read all the replies, so thank you so much. I’m new to all this, my first reply – Thank you Lord for everything.

  4. I believe that gratitude is central to a life of faith. As part of my Examen at the end of every day I write a list of events, things and people who touched me that day and for which I’m grateful. It puts my life into perspective and connects me deeply with God.

  5. Like most of us there are many things that I am thankful for. Most of all the people that have touched my life …my Mom and Dad,Bothers and sister,relatives,friendsSisters of Notre Dame,Jesuits in High school,friends,students I taught in high school for 33 years,my wife ,and family. Priest and Brothers that helped guide me on my journey. Aloha Aoe to those who are gone until we meet again.

  6. I Thank the Lord at all times, for Godly ancestors, for my mother that prayed with us since we were little, for a prayerful dad, for our cathecism teacher, for my husband and our life together, for our daughters and their families, for Godly friends and Priests, for our Holy Mother Mary, for our Holy Catholic Church, but most of all for our Lord Jesus who died for us on the Cross.


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