Over my lifetime, I have come to appreciate the ‘interruptions’ in the calendar; birthdays, anniversaries, holidays.
These are pauses, breaks in the activity of the everyday to take a moment and celebrate something that has been true the entire year. It is the specific turning of our face toward something or someone. A birthday is not, “Oh, this one day I love you,” but “Today, I am reminded how grateful I am that you exist and that our lives have been intertwined, that the cosmos is better for your presence.”
Thanksgiving Day is an opportunity to turn of our faces away from fear and negativity, from sorrow and loss, from control and lack, and turning toward the simple graces in which we are surrounded.
The love we have for or from someone. The ability to speak or eat or imagine or create or hug or touch or have moments that are not painful. For care-givers, for children, for music, for rainfall, or butterflies, or a friend, or seeing, for tasting and hearing, for memory, laughter, surprise and for the frailty that forces you to slow down, for kindness…and the list is endless.
Thankfulness is not dependent on circumstance but on the ability to see though and beyond our situations to the deeper and more true, the fundamental and underlying good in which we are all relentlessly embraced. And when we catch a glimpse of that good, our inclination is to become participants and expressers of this good into the world.
I was on a flight last week and decided to watch a movie/documentary titled, “Gleason.” It is the true story of Steve and Michel Gleason’s journey into the throes of ALS (often called Lou Gehrig’s disease). It is raw (language warning) and difficult, wrenching and deeply encouraging and redemptive.
The movie has one of the most powerful scenes I have ever watched, about a father and son, about religion in conflict with faith, about love that transcends distance and history and the burden of expectation. Michel’s love for her husband is transcendent, as is the presence of ongoing forgiveness and joy and thanksgiving.
ALS, Alzheimer’s, Cancer, political processes, unjust systems, poverty, suicide, betrayal, abuse, objectification, corruption. We are not thankful ‘FOR’ any of these. Fury and grief is often the right and good response to things that are wrong. These are circumstances that though sometimes self-inflicted, are often completely outside of any possibility of control.
Yet, we can be people who are thankful ‘IN’ our circumstances, which have a way of exposing the dignity of being human in the midst of a broken and yet, beautiful world.
A thankful heart is an invitation into a journey toward trust; that there is a transcendent goodness (God), who climbs into and joins us in our real situations of loss and suffering, and with Whom we can participate in an emerging new good, marked by the presence of a thankful heart.
So take a moment.
Breath in and out slowly. Look at your fingers. Listen to a sound. Whisper an “I am so grateful.” Squeeze a hand. Taste with purpose the next thing you eat or drink. Pause to allow the Thankful heart, which has been there the whole time, to speak its presence and its comfort.
The truth is, we are by nature beings who are thankful, and we must not allow our circumstances, or the perceptions of the fears and losses of the world around us to dictate to us the truth of who we are.