Did you know that seekers around the globe gather in small groups each month to explore the transformative possibilities of grateful living? Inspired by Br. David Steindl-Rast’s revolutionary vision, Grateful Gatherings provide community connection and guidance for discovering greater meaning, purpose, and joy in life. 

Lisa Valentine has been hosting a Grateful Gathering for five years. She joined us for a conversation to share what hosting has meant for her.

Meet the Host: Lisa Valentine — Rivertown Grateful Gathering

Lisa grew up on a dairy farm in Iowa alongside twelve siblings, fostering a love for nature, changing seasons, and being part of a large family. She has been practicing gratefulness for over 30 years, first starting a gratitude journal during her early recovery from alcoholism. The journal was a gift from a friend who encouraged her to try focusing on what was going well in her life, leading her to the personal discovery that “you can’t feel sorry for yourself and be grateful at the same time.” Her practice deepened in 2008 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. This experience gave her a newfound appreciation for everything and led her to the understanding that a grateful orientation isn’t about ignoring the challenges of life, but about embracing all of life.

Living gratefully doesn’t gloss over or deny that life is tough. It helps me get through it.

What led you to become a Grateful Gatherings host?

I was looking to expand and deepen my connection with others who were seeking to live gratefully. I felt that I had gained some insight and benefit from my practice and from the writing I had done about it, and that I would have something to share with others. I had been blogging for years about gratitude and doing a monthly newspaper column in our local paper. It was 2018 when Grateful Living brought up the idea of Grateful Gatherings and that was definitely something I wanted to do. I took part in the training and started looking for places to hold it in my local community in Minnesota. I’m happy to be one of the pioneers.

Tell us a little bit about your Gathering.

We started in 2019 and met in person monthly in a couple of different spaces locally. We were cruising along pretty well and enjoying the in-person gatherings and then of course COVID came along. By May of 2020 I decided to shift to virtual gatherings and have been doing that ever since. We regularly have people from four time zones. There have been a few people who have joined after seeing it on the Grateful Living website and a couple of those people have become regular attendees, which just thrills me.

What’s so impressive to me is how, whatever the topic is, we’re showing up because we want to talk about living gratefully in general. It doesn’t feel like you’re thousands of miles away from each other when you’re in this Gathering. There are some topics that would not be able to pull that off, but gratefulness is one of them that can.

Rivertown Grateful Gathering
Some of the members of the virtual Rivertown Grateful Gathering

How has leading a Grateful Gathering impacted your life? How has it impacted the lives of your members?

Every time we have a gathering, I leave feeling good that we had that gathering. Sometimes I’m busy and I feel like, “Am I ready? Who’s going to show up?” But I never regret having pursued it and continuing to do it.

I recently asked some of the participants in our Gathering to reflect on their experience. Here are a few of their responses:

  • “I find that it is a great support and enhancement of a daily practice of gratitude. The topics are thoughtful and helpful in seeing life in a positive, practical way. I’ve enjoyed gathering with others who value the practice of gratitude in their lives.”
  • “Meeting with these wonderful people has shown me many different perspectives of gratitude, not for just what and who I have in my life, but for the simple little things that I encounter every day.”
  • “Regularly attending Grateful Gatherings has deepened my gratitude practice and given me new skills. Sharing in the Gatherings is supportive and often fun.”
  • “What I appreciate the most about the Gatherings is the worldly perspective of all living things it brings to my life. It also takes some common themes and topics and puts a twist on them that otherwise I would have never considered. The open-mindedness it brings to my life makes me beyond grateful.”
  • And one participant shared that the meetings have been very valuable as he’s coped with some tough health challenges.

What would you say to someone who’s considering hosting a Grateful Gathering?

I would encourage them to dive in. It will transform you. The energy you put into preparing and facilitating will come back to you many fold — whether there are four of you or 14 or 40, you will experience the power of grateful living revealing itself.

Looking to create meaningful community in 2024?

Our brand new Grateful Gatherings host training will begin in February. Let us know if you’re interested in learning more, and we’ll be sure to keep you in the loop on host registration details!

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