Last Spring, a number of us spent several Tuesday evenings engaged in a Spiritual Studies unit titled, “Hope Is A Muscle”. Throughout those weeks, we discussed how hope is a spiritual “skill” – not something we either have or don’t have, but instead all have an innate disposition toward to varying degrees. That disposition can then be grown and maintained through the development of a number of habits. It is an understanding of hope as a by-product of other life practices.

Of those life practices, one of the few which shows up on nearly every piece of research I have seen regarding people who score highly on inventories assessing hope is gratitude. Hopeful people tend to be people who practice gratitude consistently in their lives.

As we enter the month of November then – the month of Thanksgiving, and especially in such trying times – I invite you to try something. Each day through the month, perform a “practice of gratitude”. For instance, make a list at the end of each day of three things you were grateful for specific to that day. Make a donation to a charity, school or other organization in the name of someone you are grateful to for something that made a difference in your life. Send an email or note thanking someone for something recent, or perhaps even better, something long ago that they might not be aware of or remember.

Then, at the end of the month, see if you haven’t become a more grateful person. And because of that, a more hopeful one as well.