Thank You and Please

Last night, I dreamt an amazing dream. I was in a sparse, quiet room not unfamiliar to me, when someone I had never before met handed me two wooden boxes. Both simple in shape and bare of ornament, one was about the size of a clothes basket, while the other was no larger than a fingernail.  In a gentle, kind voice, the stranger instructed me to fill the large box with a list of everything for which I was grateful. The small box was also to be filled, but with a list of all my prayers. His final instruction to me was to remain in the room until I’d completed this task. Then he left.

In my dream, I looked at both boxes. The large one was massive… I heard myself saying that I’d never be able to create a list long enough to fill it. Conversely, I worried that the smaller box would never hold a complete list of all I dreamed for and wanted.

But I carried on with my task, starting with the large box. Pen in hand, I began a list of my gratitude. My husband. My business. My silly bassets. My friends. The view from my office window. French-pressed coffee. My new sneakers… Finding items for the list was initially easy, but after the first twenty or so it became difficult. I wrote sporadically, searching my brain for anything I could think of to fill the list. About the same time I became frustrated, the stranger returned to check on my progress. He looked up from the list and said, don’t focus on the task… focus on the gratitude. Listen to your heart.

When he left, I sat there quietly, listening… waiting to hear something. In the dream, I may have sat in that room for days, until I finally heard a voice and slowly began writing all it was telling me.  Fall leaves. A newly sharpened pencil. The smell of a summer rain. Rick’s laugh. I wrote without thinking, gently tapping my soul for everything in which I found delight until I realized that the list had started writing itself; things were magically appearing on the paper all by themselves.  In my dream, I marveled at this display.

As I watched several items appear on the list, it occurred to me that many of them would never have been added if I were writing it. A past friend from whom I’d parted on unkind terms… The loss of Rick’s job… A grueling work project… My treadmill… A recent health issue… Initially I felt no gratitude at all for these things. But then I realized that each one had brought me a challenge from which I’d benefited and learned. And I was indeed grateful for the lesson.

Suddenly, the list was done. It was massive. I placed it in the large wooden box. I could barely close the lid, but when I did I sat and smiled. Then I turned my attention to the small box.

A list of my prayers… dreams, desires, yearnings. I wondered how I ever would fit such a large list into such wee space…

I began.

In the tiniest of handwriting, I wrote down everything. Ample money for retirement. Lose 50 pounds. A new car. Time off next year for a proper vacation. Better skin. An upgraded Mac. Those cool jeans from the Fall catalog. Clear cell phone service at the house. Unlike my gratitude list, this one started out with far too many items; it didn’t seem to end. And no matter how small I printed, the list was always too large for the box.

Again, the stranger checked on me.  While watching me attempt to squeeze my list into the box in frustration he responded, don’t focus on the task. Focus on the prayer. Listen to your heart. He left and I sat there quietly, listening… waiting…


And then the voice came. Without any worry over the size of my writing, I picked up my pen and dictated the three prayers it said aloud: one for me, one for those I love and one for those in the world around me:

May I be more patient and kind.
May those I love be happy and healthy. 
May everyone know tolerance and peace.

Then I folded the paper and placed it in the tiny box. The lid closed without any difficulty.

I stood and looked at my two boxes. One filled with a large list of gratitude, and another filled with a small list of prayer. I smiled.

Then I awoke from my dream… and it hit me:

Gratitude and Prayer.
Thank you and Please.

Perfect portions. Perfect order. Perfect lesson.