Well, I think that gratitude/appreciation is one of my top values - and I have ALOT to be grateful for. I consider myself to be a very lucky human being in many areas of my life. I also believe that as a human being, and having accepted the scientific evidence of evolution, I am definitely "of this world" and when I die I will return to this world - dust to dust and all that.
Expressing my gratitude and nuturing my feelings of gratitude brings meaning to my life. My gratitude is not only for the good things in my life that are just plain luck (like being born in Canada to great parents, my good health, etc.) but also for the people who have influenced the trajectory of my life.
Growing up I always believed in God, and as a young adult I was quite religious. Gratitude is a common value among many believers that I have and do associate with. As a believer, my gratitude for the good things in my life (and even the hard lessons) was often directed to God. Sometimes, I remembered to thank others as well, but other times thanking God was enough for me. As I let go of my belief in God, those feelings of gratitude did not go away. Finding other ways to show gratitude takes some thinking and effort now - and that is rewarding. Now I try to thank the people who were most often at the root of the very things I was grateful for. I find this action is not only rewarding to me - but also to those who recieve it. Below I will outline two example of things I am grateful for and how I express it.
I have excellent parents who provided all the necessities of life for my sister and I growing up. Although, everyone in my family would agree that we are not perfect and definitely not without flaws, we loved each other and we knew that we all loved each other. Genetically, I come from a fairly healthy background - there isn't a lot of cancer and disease in our family medical history. On the whole, we tend to live average to long lives without a lot of pain or discomfort. While this carries no guarantees, I know that others are not as lucky in this area - and I hope my luck continues. In the meantime, I thank my parents for getting married, having children, caring about me, encouraging me, attending to the things I needed to be successful, teaching me, and everything that goes into raising me into the independent, caring adult I have become. It may seem conceited to say, but I really like who I have become and the family I was raised by has ALOT to do with who I am. So I express gratitude to my family whenever I can. I know my mom and dad appreciate that a lot. This also helps me to remember not to take my family for granted (not always an easy task).
I am also grateful for the beauty of this earth. As a believer I used to credit God for it. Although I don't anymore, I am in no less awe of the processes of evolution, geological shifts, and other natural phenomena that make this planet so beautiful in its natural state. Instead of directing my gratitude to a being I'm not sure exists, I support people who try to preserve our natural resources, and support the scienctific discoveries that help us understand and take care of this planet better. This is the only world we, as humans, can comfortably live on right now; so we better learn and take care of it as much as we can. I am no environmentalist, but I care about, admire, and support and thank those who have taken up this cause. I show my appreciation and gratitude with words, and sometimes through giving. Whenever convenient, I try to participate in daily activites that will also preserve the beauty, utility and sustainability of our home - the world. This planet is uniquely situated, and was uniquely able (as far as we know) to allow life to seed and blossom as we know it today. It is quite the natural miracle.
-- Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot, 1994
Truly, as a human being, I am "of this world" - all living things are. I am grateful for it. Gratitude brings meaning and joy to my heart.