Expressing gratitude has the power lift us out of anger, fear, anxiety, self pity and a host of other maladies.
Yes, it’s that time of year – the proverbial retelling of our American story. Some families do the round-the-table recitations. Many of us show our gratitude by stuffing our faces with food and then zoning out in a carb coma in front of football. From turkey skin to pig skin. Julia Louis-Dreyfuss, in a “Saturday Night Live” skit called it a “Baroque festival of overconsumption”. The great American tradition.
I’m trying to go deeper. Each Thanksgiving week, I read the story to at least one of the children and to myself and talk about how it really was for the Pilgrims. I never tire of rereading the accounts, and never cease to be amazed and overwhelmed at how raw and arduous life was on a daily basis. I wonder how many of them silently wondered, never to speak aloud: “Was it worth this?” as they shivered in the cold, got sick on the wobbly ship before the houses were built, or watched another member die of sickness that first winter:
When I see suffering or experience it myself, either presently or learn of it in the past, I am starting to make gratitude lists to remind me of the goodness that still exists to keep me from sinking into melancholy that takes too long to emerge from. When I write them out to share in a blog, they sound so trite. They’re different each time and don’t all encompass everything I’m grateful for.
But here’s my humble, short list, for today:
- For the wondrous changing of leaves in autumn. To me, it means relief.
- For music that can stir a heart that has stiffened in trying to protect itself from pain.
- For weather cold enough to make me need socks and sweaters.
- For the familiar warmth of a fire in the fireplace.
- For a society free enough to express praise, criticism, new ideas.
- For the way caring people send food – always food, our sustenance – to those who are suffering.
- For the simple lessons of Charlie Brown.
- For the unconditional love of dogs.
- For “The Splendid Table” on NPR radio on Saturday mornings.
- For my three children, who remind me of what it’s like to be a child: the joys, the wounds, the freshness of living.
- For tufts of hair sticking out from under the ruffled covers.
- Yes, for mismatched socks lying around on the floor. There was a time when I would have paid big money just to have little bodies in the house to cause extra laundry.
- For servicemen and women who put their lives on the line daily to keep us free.
- For “Saturday Night Live” which makes fun of everything.
- That God can be found in the midst of chaos.
What does your gratitude list look like?