Small-Group Session (2 of 2)

To print this outline as a PDF, click here.


Before the session starts, the leader should set chairs in a circle, with a chalice and matches on a small table in the middle, or somewhere visible to participants.  Make sure the strips of paper for “Readings from the Common Bowl” are in the bowl.  Welcome people, and allow folks to settle before lighting the chalice.

Chalice Lighting and Opening Words

The group leader lights the chalice (or asks someone else to) and then, with the intent of creating sacred space, reads the following words: The moment one gives close attention to anything, even a blade of grass, it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnificent world in itself.” — Henry Miller

Brief Check-In

Invite each person, in turn, to share a brief answer to the check-in question.  The check-in question is: “What was the last thing someone thanked you for?”

Readings from the common bowl

The leader passes around the bowl, with strips of paper that have quotes on them.  Invites each person to take one strip/quote out of the bowl. Then, invites each to read the quotes.  They don’t have to read in order, one right next to the last one.  But instead, invite them to allow some silence after every quote, and then to see if the quote they picked out of the bowl should go next or not.  (See additional page for quotes; these are the quotes that will be torn into separate strips, and put in the bowl before the meeting)

Focusing Question

After everyone has read the different statements, the leader asks the central question that will guide the session’s discussion:  Philosopher William James said, The deepest craving of human nature is the need to be appreciated.  Do you agree, or do you see a deeper craving in human nature?  And, if so, where does receiving gratitude fit within your understanding of human nature?

First Round

Leader invites attendees to take no more than 2 minutes to share a response to the question.  Find a way to gently hold the group to the no-more-than-2-minute limit.  Also, let people know there’s no cross-talk to the responses: group-members don’t answer the statements people make.  One person speaks for oneself, then the next person does the same.  It’s not a conversation, so much as a series of statements.  Again, each with some silence or space between.  And, again, voices don’t need to go in order, with people sitting beside each other speaking—just as the Spirit moves.


After hearing everyone’s statements, the leader invites the group to sit in silence for 2-3 minutes.  This is not time for them to plan what they’ll say.  It’s time to sit and be present, to let whatever comes up, come up.

Second round, reflections on what was heard, with additional thoughts

Whereas in the first round, attendees were encouraged to stick to their own thoughts, here in the second round, people can respond to some of what they heard.  Again, encourage brevity—whether a formal 2-minute limit is enforced or not, encourage the conversation to move from one place to another in the circle, not getting dragged down to one or two voices who speak at length.  It’s ok for people to respond to each other’s comments.

Likes and wishes

The leader asks for people to share, as they’re moved, what they liked about the session, and what they wish for next time, that they may or may not have experienced this time.

Closing Words

From Psalm 65, addressed to the Spirit of Life: The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders; where morning dawns, where evening fades, you call forth songs of joy.


Quotes for the Common Bowl

I think, with never-ending gratitude, that the young women of today do not and can never know at what price their right to free speech and to speak at all in public has been earned. –Lucy Stone


Enough is a feast.  –Buddhist saying


Silent gratitude isn’t worthy very much to anyone.  –Gertrude Stein

Does not the gratitude of the dog put those to shame who are not grateful to their benefactors?  --Saint Basil


Disappointment is a sticky one, because no one can steal contentment, joy, gratitude, or peace - we have to give it away. –Kristin Armstrong


Gratitude is riches. Complaint is poverty.  –Doris Day


Help is dangerous because it exists outside the human economy: the only payment for help is gratitude.  –Rachel Cusk


Have gratitude for the things you're discarding. By giving gratitude, you're giving closure to the relationship with that object, and by doing so, it becomes a lot easier to let go.  –Marie Condo


“It is a pity that doing one's best does not always answer.” --Charlotte Brontë,


Thanksgiving always precedes the miracle.  –Ann Voskamp


Value is not made of money, but a tender balance of expectation and longing.  –Barbara Kingsolver


Sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers.  –Garth Brooks


If you can’t be thankful for what you have received, be thankful for what you have escaped.  --Anonymous