Finding Thankfulness and Gratitude in My Life
“Thankfulness is the beginning of gratitude. Gratitude is the completion of thankfulness. Thankfulness may consist merely of words. Gratitude is shown in acts.”
–Henri Frederic Amiel, Swiss philosopher
The harvest is in, the garden has been put to bed, and the weather has turned cold. The days are growing shorter; winter has arrived. It is the season of a comfortable chair, a warm blanket, a mug of tea and a good book.
It is also a time of being thankful and grateful. At Thanksgiving, we gather around the table, sharing food and companionship. It is a time of quiet celebration.
Thanksgiving is a quiet, contemplative holiday with few expectations. Simply being together and sharing a meal is all that the holiday seems to require of us. Oh, and the obligatory giving of thanks. In the rush towards the consumerism and frenzy of Christmas, it seems easy to slide right by this time of giving thanks, and plunge into the next holiday.
And, when we do that, we forget to pause and reflect, and to be truly thankful.
The real holiday, the real celebration this week is a time to go inward, to truly appreciate what we have in our lives, and how we are to live, to truly be children of God. Thanksgiving is all about love, in all of its dimensions.
This year there is much to be thankful for: the necessities of life, purposeful work, time with friends and family, health, and being able to serve, to be of service.
People in my life this year have achieved much. One friend is moving into a new home, his first, very own, this is really mine, home. A year ago, he was adrift, unemployed, unsure of himself. Today, due to his hard work and his belief in all of his possibilities, he has a rich, purposeful life.
Another friend is casting aside distractions and old misery, and healing old wounds. He’s taking charge, doing healthy things, putting his life in order.
Another friend passed a test in school. He conquered his fears, his self doubts; he has conquered his sabotage of a future of rich possibilities. He is ready to move on, and he has shown to himself that he can grow, and learn, and be successful. He has climbed his own mountain, and can believe in himself.
I am recharging my own creative energies. I am writing a serious book that gives voice to those who are less fortunate. I am immersing myself in creating music and art, and being an advocate for others. I am pausing to look at the beauty of the world, in this very moment, to appreciate who I am and where I am going.
All this is scary, terrifying work. What if I actually accomplish what I dream? Are there really no barriers, no limits to what I can accomplish, if I put my mind and my soul into the effort? I might be successful? Me? But, then I will have to take on even greater challenges, and be responsible for my effort. Really? Little old me?
Yes, me. I am the one. I am the one who can change the world, one little step at a time. Changing the world is really my job. And, I can do it.
We all have our obstacles. And we are all capable of success, and believing in our strengths, our possibilities.
I am a citizen of the world and I pay attention, I learn, and I try to apply my energies and my awareness to being an instrument of positive change.
We live in troubled times. Yet that has also been true in years past. Every generation has faced that challenge, and had to answer that question, can I really accomplish my dream?
I choose to be an agent of change, and to not retreat into silence and indifference. I believe we are called to respond and to act, to be proactive, to be God’s instruments of change.
Maybe I can’t wave my magic wand and achieve world peace. But, I can move in that direction. I can bring myself and my work into a state of constructive peacefulness. I can work to nurture that energy into my family, my neighborhood, and my community.
I can make a difference.
I can join with other like-minded people, and consistently do good works.
Each of us is a peace-maker. Peace making has to start somewhere.
“Let there be peace on Earth and let it begin with me,” the song says.
We all have our story. Be a listener, and hear someone speak their truth, perhaps for the first time. Let everyone’s story be told, and be heard.
Each of us can do an act of kindness and compassion. Pay an act of kindness forward. Buy a stranger a coffee, help an elderly person with a package, talk to a friend, visit the sick, the lonely, the imprisoned. Maybe bring a meal to a sick neighbor. Volunteer.
Strike up a conversation while waiting at the grocery store check out. Ask the clerk how they are doing and listen to their answer. Hear them, deeply and compassionately. Hug a friend who seems upset, lost, without hope.
In any of that work, there is kindness and compassion. You are giving of yourself, and you are showing others how to be human, how to be kind and loving.
“Be the change you want to see in the world,” Mahatma Gandhi said.
Our example, just something simple, can change one person’s life. And in that, we change the world. We make our planet just a little better.
Isn’t that the Golden Rule? Isn’t that what the prophets, the scions of great religions have preached? Isn’t that being an instrument of God’s love for every one of us?
Each of us is special, unique. We are here for a reason. And, isn’t that reason to show love and compassion, to be kind, generous, thoughtful of others? By our example, we show the way, we demonstrate how people should really live, how we really are the children of God.
Today, I give thanks, and I am grateful. And, in my own, small way, I am making a difference, I am changing the world, one small act of kindness at a time.
—Neal Lemery, November 24, 2015