Q: What practical thing makes a person grateful? — Clergy member, Dallas, TX

A: +One thing that helps me personally is having grown up during the war in Austria, which was Germany at the time. Towards the end of the war, we had nothing to eat. We were just really starving…and when you have so little, you are so much more grateful for the little that you have.

The difficulty in the United States is that there is so much, that there is not this joyful overflowing. I think of gratitude as an overflowing of joy. If the vessel is small, it overflows sooner. That’s why poor people are often much more joyful than rich people, because their vessel is very small. The smallest thing makes it already overflow; and this sparking of life, this joy of life, is the overflow. It’s the overflowing with gratefulness and thankfulness.

So in my case it was having less and therefore learning to be grateful. Frugality might be an important element of learning to be grateful. When you deprive yourself of some things – like on fast days when you have much less than on other days – all of a sudden you notice how good bread is, where formerly you just think it’s the support for the things that you’re really interested in. There’s nothing to put on it: The bread of the sandwich itself becomes something that you really appreciate. Maybe having less might be a way towards that appreciation.

–Your brother David

Transcribed from a question-answer period following Brother David’s talk at Thanks-Giving Square in Dallas, Texas, on April 7, 2005.