Holiday 2009 - Finding Gratitude Every Day
When I was a child, my father made a ritual of coming into my sister's and my bedroom for our goodnight prayers. These weren't the prayers recited by rote in school or church, but rather his own words to convey what he wanted to say at the end of the day. Even now, I can still remember at least part of this same-every-night prayer. As we lay there in a darkened room, he always started by saying 'Thank you' for a myriad of things: our health, shelter over our heads, food on our table, a good school...' Then he'd segue into various appeals for continued good health, happiness for all of our friends and neighbors, peace in the world, etc. To my child-like sensibilities, it seemed that good health, shelter, and a good school were things that everyone had, and priority should be placed on the 'request' part of his spiel. But there came a night when my big sister piped in with her thanks for something, and before long, I was adding my own thanks to the line-up: for my rabbit, the fact that it was summer, or the fun hide-and-seek game with the neighborhood kids my parents had let us stay out past dusk to finish.
It seems that no matter our religious or spiritual inclination, it is part of the human condition to ask or say a prayer for something. Even if we don't make a big, elaborate deal of it, we ask for you-name-it: good weather for the company picnic, a victory for our team, an improvement in the economic climate, the end of the drought in Africa, etc. But I think that giving thanks just doesn't happen as often as making a request—at least it sure doesn't with me. I find myself whispering a plea much more often than I acknowledge something for which I'm grateful. Yet I've committed myself to finding gratitude every single day, and that's probably because my father made it part of our lives as kids. Having learned early on that I have countless things to be grateful for, I can almost always find a bright side to even the lousiest day. My bet is that we all have a myriad of things to appreciate. Whether it's the roof over our heads, the rain on our thirsty garden, the luxury of being able to fill up the gas tank, or the fact that we still have our eyesight, the list is nearly endless.
And that's why I think that Thanksgiving is one of our most meaningful and sweetest holidays. Hopefully, we take the opportunity to reflect on the good things in our lives. It gives us the chance to build a celebration around one single quality: gratitude. It gives us the chance to move beyond the ingrained sense of self-entitlement so many of us in our country have and look at life from a position of a grateful 'I have' rather than 'I want'—a position that will not only enhance our own lives as well as our children's, but will truly make the world a gentler and more caring place.