The holidays are upon us, and Val and I are filled with gratitude. We had a houseful for Thanksgiving; my older brother Bill, his new girlfriend Deb, and my two nephews Ian and Jake were here for a few days. Our neighbor Lynne hosted Thanksgiving dinner. Val’s brother Gary and my family were there for a wonderful afternoon of feasting. We had decided several weeks ago to opt out of the traditional turkey, and made a stuffed pork loin instead. It was the right choice as it turned out succulent and savory.
As wonderful as the food was, especially Val’s pecan pie, I was struck by the warmth in the room. I was not brought up in a particularly tight-knit family and we often had challenges understanding each other. Families can be microcosms of humanity in all their various dysfunctions, yet when I posed the question: “What are each of you grateful for?” no one hesitated to offer up something they could share. Each comment was personal and reflective, briefly exposing the heart of the person saying it. As we witnessed each other’s heartfelt statement, the food became secondary to the intention of the day and it occurred to me that gratitude is not a noun, but a verb; a way to live one’s life. It shows us the power of having enough. In this consumer driven society, it is sometimes difficult to understand how less can indeed be more, as we move farther into the holiday season. With many people being unemployed or worried about expenses it seems counter intuitive to think that the health of our nation is determined by how much we spend. Yet there are many forms of wealth, some of which have nothing to do with purchasing power. When we are grateful for someone or something in our life, the circle becomes complete when we reciprocate with a kind action toward another. Kindness begets kindness, just as love and being loved open us up to endless possibilities. When we value others we are also valued. The holiday season is our reminder that if this can be practiced during this time of the year, why not all 12 months? Maybe it’s time to dust off our better selves and practice an attitude of gratitude, with the understanding that it is the simple things in life: family, friends and being kind to those around us, that will increase our wealth. With riches like these, we would all benefit as a nation, knowing that when others in our country suffer, so do we. We would rest better at night if we knew children were not going hungry, people could get their health needs met regardless of income and we cared about one another.
“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” –Melodie Beattie