I thought I’d share what I think is a wonderful gratitude practice that I learned from … my six-year-old son.
As we live in Japan, Japanese is our son’s first language (although his English is pretty good, too). As you may know, Japanese has a set of formulaic expressions used before and after a meal: itadakimasu (頂きます), meaning “I humbly receive / accept”, said before basically any meal, and gochisō-sama–deshita (ご馳走さまでした), meaning roughly “It has been a feast.” These are meant to express gratitude for the food that sustains us, and for the work that went into its preparation (chisō 馳走 literally means “running around”). These are standard expressions that most Japanese use reflexively — they are drilled into them from childhood.
Anyway, one day not too long ago, my son said to me: “We should say itadakimasu every morning and gochisō-sama every night!”
I was a little confused at first; “Yes,” I said, “we say itadakimasu before breakfast, and also gochisō-sama after dinner…”
“No, no,” he explained, “not for the meals. We should say it for the day!”
I was mildly stunned. “That’s… brilliant!” I told him. “You’re right! We absolutely should do that!” (Out of the mouths of babes… )
So now we do. First thing in the morning, and last thing at night.
“I humbly receive.”
“It has been a feast.”
I think it’s a wonderful practice, and a beautiful metaphor: each day as a nourishing meal. Some we hungrily devour, others we delicately savor; still others we may simply nibble our way through. But at the beginning and at the end, may we be mindfully grateful for the wonder of simply having received it: this day. This life.