Thursday, November 27, 2008

If I could live only one day, I would choose this one: Thanksgiving Day.

My first words when I waken in the morning are the words “thank you,” as early streams of light pour through my windows, my spirit re-connects with my body, and I begin to feel the crispness of fresh cotton sheets on my bare skin. There’s a sweetness in these moments in between sleep and wakefulness, and my first conscious thought is gratitude. It feels good to be here. I need to go to the bathroom so I slide out of bed, and when my feet touch the floor and I feel myself standing upright, I again whisper the words “thank you.” It feels good to be inside my own body. It feels good to be here, and I really have a lot to be thankful for.

I have not always lived with such an awareness of gratitude, but I have been gifted with many teachers. One of my teachers was an old man I used to see sitting in the park while I walked to and from work. One day the old man wasn’t there anymore, and I imagined he had moved on or had simply tired of the same old park. He was just plain gone. A year or so later I received a letter in the mail; the writer of the letter wrote that she was a nurse in a veteran’s hospital in a city somewhere across the state, and one of her patients requested she write the letter to me on his behalf. She explained that her patient Bill had been the old man in the park, that Bill had just had his legs amputated and would probably never again leave that hospital. The letter continued to let me know that Bill wanted to say thank you for my friendship in that park, that he appreciated that I had given him apples and home-baked cookies, that I had so often taken the time to stop and say hello and chat with him for a minute or two before I went on my way. And now, when he knew he would never see me again and in fact knew he wouldn’t even live much longer, the one thing Bill wanted was to say thank you to someone who had made a difference in his life. Bill didn’t have much, but he gave thanks for what he had.

Gratitude is more than simply saying the words “thank you.” True gratitude is fully enjoying a thing, thoroughly experiencing it. (If I am truly thankful for a thing, I cannot at the same time ignore or neglect it.)

If you have only one gift, that one gift is deserving of a lifetime of appreciation. We in the Western world, however, have more than one gift. We have incredibly much of everything. Even on an ordinary day (not a special day such as this holiday), we have such abundance that we sometimes have a hard time deciding what it is we want to eat, what we want to wear, what we want to do for entertainment. We live in abundance of possessions and abundance of opportunities. And with so much abundance it can be difficult to feel how much we have. I don’t want to make that mistake. I don’t want to miss my own bounty. I want to drink deeply. I want to taste completely. And for being given such an abundance of gifts, I want to live a life of gratitude.

What could be better, then, than a day set aside for the giving of thanks….

On this special Thanksgiving Day, I wish you much joy in the treasures in your life. I wish you to be deeply aware of your own abundance. And I wish you to be happy in thanksgiving. After all, we really do have a lot to be thankful for.

photography by permission
cindy lee jones

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