From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Book of Christmas Virtues

Steeped in Gratitude

You can make it quick: Plug in a single-serve, electric hot pot and dip a tissued teabag.

You can make it simple: Zap a stoneware mug of prebrewed in the microwave.

You can make it on-the-run: Propel your car into the nearest drive-through, place a quick order and pay at the window.

To get a cup of tea, you can do any of those things, and you probably have. But at what cost? Perhaps you’re forfeiting a pleasure in the act itself.

Taking time to plan a proper cup of tea allows you to pause in the routine of daily life, to elevate yourself to a higher plane. Pull out a favored teakettle—well-worn and coppered, or plump and patinaed, maybe full-bellied and Dumbo-eared—and fill it with freshly drawn water. Wait for it to whistle.

And while you’re waiting, attend to the details.

You might discover that preparing the tea tray brings its own peculiar pleasure. Gather those special items guaranteed to please: a whimsical cloth napkin, your grandmother’s chipped, bone-china teapot,a quaintly mismatched cup and saucer,and a delicate silver spoon. Add your personal selection of sugar cubes, clovered honey, heavy cream or serrated lemon slices.

Then select your favorite flavor of loose tea. What will it be today? Traditional oolong, Ceylon or sage? Exotic jasmine, lingonberry or licorice? Or what about something Christmasy, maybe cinnamon-apple, peppermint or orange-tangerine?

And keep an ear cocked toward the kettle. First, you’ll hear humming and hissing. Next, a full-throated gurgling, just before the kettle bursts into full song, whistling for your attention.

Serve your tea with the ceremony it deserves. Swill a bit of boiling water in Grandma’s teapot, empty it out and add those flavor-filled leaves. Flood with burbling water. Cover. Simmer. Steep. Let the fragrant tendrils of steam seep from the spout to tempt and tickle your senses. Inhale, deeply.

Mind-mellowing,muscle-melting . . .

And when you’ve waited as long as you can, pour yourself a cup. Right to the brim.

Swizzle the lemon or dollop the cream.

Drizzle some honey or swirl a sugar cube. One lump? Two?

Now allow yourself the serenity to savor the full-bodied drink. Position your face to catch the last rays of the winter sun. Or prop your toes in front of a toasty fire. Puff away the steam . . .and take a test sip. Then another. And another. Ahhhhhhhh. Let its warmth seep through your limbs, thaw your tummy and soothe your soul.

A home-brewed cup of tea. Simple and satisfying. Perhaps all the more so because of the thought, the ritual and the repetition that created the experience itself.

Like brewing tea, gratitude is an art to be practiced, a virtue worth perfecting.

When was the last time you considered life’s abundance? Felt appreciation for the small things? December’s first snowfall, a thick comforter on a winter night, an empty bus seat when you’re loaded with holiday packages. Or counted your larger blessings? A secure job,well-behaved teenagers and forgiveness from a mate.

Next, think about those who have touched your life. Has someone soothed an ache? Filled a void? Maybe you’ve been the recipient of a kind deed or an act of compassion. When you were torn, did someone mend you? When you were down, did someone lift you up? When you were tired, did someone carry you?

And, above all, did you remember to express your gratitude?

It’s never too late to show your appreciation to others.

You could make it quick, simple,on-the-run. Or you can indulge in the full-bodied experience of expressing gratitude until the repetition itself becomes a ritual as natural and rhythmic as brewing tea.

Pause and plan a way to do it: How can you best acknowledge a thoughtful favor? What can you do to instill delight?

Take pleasure in the preparation: Give of yourself, your time, your emotions, your energy. Never rush an act of appreciation. Enjoy the process.

Serve it with a bit of ceremony: Use your best stationery and a fine-tipped pen, or pick the tightest buds from your prized rosebush.

By elevating gratitude to a virtue, you might discover your own heart warms in the process. So brew a satisfying cup of appreciation and fully savor the serenity . . . sip by tiny sip.

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