Growing up, I was encouraged to be grateful for the many good things I was able to enjoy. It was sound enough advice.
But I found that the times I most felt gratitude welling up within me were not the times of plenty but the times of scarcity. That I actually had just enough money to put just enough gas in the car to get to work and back brought tears to my eyes. That I had just enough food in the cupboard to make it the few days until payday made the food taste like a feast for kings. At those times, I began to know deep in the bones that my life has never been entirely up to me. At those times, I knew I was this close to not having enough money, to not having enough food. What utter fortune! What riches! What wealth!
I am a conjunction of circumstances, all of which are pretty much beyond my control. If on balance the gains currently outweigh the losses (I'm still drawing breath, after all), it is nothing for me to be proud of. And when the day comes (as it must) when losses outweigh the gains, I know that I will have no reason to fight it or complain. In fact, gain and loss, boon and bane, really lose their poignancy at this point, don't they?
So I say: gratitude isn't a matter of ticking off all the good things one has and saying, "Thanks." Rather, gratitude is a matter of welcoming all circumstances with an open heartmind. It is reflected in passing on one's excess to those who need it, and it is manifested in gracefully allowing the things that are going away to go away.