Today and for years to come, we will continue to bow with heavy hearts in the wake of the Las Vegas tragedy, but I urge you to always find a place of gratitude.

There are little moments that you savor like a good meal, time with family, and a special memory that fills up your whole being with warm fuzzies and lots of love.

We have moments like this often at Trinity Cafe. One of our volunteers, Harry, who regularly hosts a table on Mondays wearing his veteran ball cap, shared one of these moments of gratitude with a fellow guest. They recognized one another from their time serving in the military at Carswell Air Force Base in Texas. The two veterans smiled, swapped stories, reminisced, and laughed, while Brigette enjoyed French onion soup, a delicious barbecue chicken sandwich, baked beans, and green beans, and a dessert of an apple and cookies. They even exchanged contact information to keep in touch with one another. Harry was beaming the rest of the service and simply amazed with this connection!

It was one of those moments that I felt grateful to observe. It was quickly followed by another guest, who took the time to stop and thank each volunteer he saw on the way to the front door as well as the team serving on the line, saying, “Thank you for the meal. Have a blessed day.”

None of this was orchestrated, or scripted, yet it happened at lunch time after we all awoke to the terrible tragedy of the shooting in Las Vegas. With my heavy heart hurting for those who were slain and injured, it offered me a big dose of gratitude for being surrounded by people who choose light, love and service each and every day at Trinity Cafe.

It’s like a positive Tetris effect. If you’ve ever played Tetris for any length of time, you know that you continue to see the lines and the patterns no matter where you go. The cereal boxes at the grocery store, you’re trying to line up in Tetris patterns. The rows of bread, fill in all the gaps, clear another line. It’s like Tetris follows you everywhere.

The same can be said of happiness, gratitude and optimism. Consistently grateful people are more energetic, emotionally intelligent, forgiving and less likely to be depressed, anxious or lonely. Shawn Achor’s book, The Happiness Advantage, first turned me on to the Tetris-like effect of gratitude, and it inspired several friends of mine to start gratitude jars. When I find my attitude turning negative, I quickly return to a simple daily practice of identifying three things for which I am grateful. I try to share them with my co-workers, friends and family, and write them down and put them in my jar.

I love a good thank you sandwich. The bread is the thank you that bookends your sandwich. I prefer mine with wheat bread because it’s a little heartier and healthier. The peanut butter is working to discover why you are grateful, why you give or serve, and the jelly is the sweet spot that connects you or your organization deeper with someone. It’s the connection you’re looking for: the peanut butter and the jelly.

Today, I am super thankful for the opportunity to serve at Trinity Cafe, that first piece of wheat bread. The peanut butter was discovering a volunteer and a guest’s common connection around a lifetime of service in the military. The jelly was bearing witness to the reason why people visit the cafe: intentional community and relationships around a dining room table. The second piece of bread was sharing in the gratitude of others.

Find your own thank you sandwich today and look for an opportunity to be grateful. It’s likely to follow you around like Tetris does.

By: Mandy Cloninger, Executive Director Trinity Cafe