Unemployment. Uncertainty. Unknowns. Hacks. Betrayals. Scams. Loss. Recession. Doubt. Depression. Fear. Terrorists. Thanksgiving.
What? Thanksgiving? How did that slip into this list?
Yes, Thanksgiving. In this country, the United States of America, once a year we take time to be thankful for all of our blessings. Sometimes, such as the present time, we may think there is little for which to be thankful. Just read the list again. Evil seems pervasive. Ubiquitous. How do we be thankful when we’ve lost our job? our home has gone into foreclosure? illness strikes? we are betrayed by someone we thought was our friend? Etc.
Many years ago, when my life was in enormous upheaval, there was a time when I actually believed there was nothing to be thankful for, or at least very little. I will spare you the details, just suffice it to say that that was a very bleak time in my life. During that time my enlightened youngest daughter gave me two small journals. She suggested that each night before I go to bed I write down at least five things I was thankful for on that day; just five blessings each day to record in a journal. The first days were tough. “Thank you that this day is over.” “Thank you that I don’t have to see or talk to anyone else today.” “Thank you that I don’t have to fake a smile, or sound happy on the phone, or make up things to be thankful for any more today…” However, sometime later when I went back to read some of the entries, I noticed that by the end of the first week when I recorded my five blessings for the day, a definite change was beginning to take place. “Thank you that I have a warm bed to sleep in tonight.” “Thank you that I had food to eat today.” “Thank you for the first crocuses I saw poking through the snow.” By the time I had been recording my blessings for the second week, I found that listing five blessings daily was impossible; there were too many blessings to narrow the list down to just five. In addition, I was adding prayers for others in need of recognizing their daily blessings. I could write endlessly about the blessings I encountered each day. Really. In two short weeks my attitude and sense of well being had changed dramatically. Even though my situation had not changed, I was changing inwardly which reflected outwardly, all because I simply paused each day to count my blessings. Thank you, Mary, for those small journals and your sagely advice. I filled both journals in short order and have gone on to fill other journals recounting the many blessings of my life.
A second story is not really my own, but it impacted the way I pray daily. I want to give credit to the person who told me this true story, but I honestly cannot remember the source. It seems that a rabbi was teaching a class of young children how to pray. The rabbi went around the room and asked each child what they would say to G!d if they could speak to the Almighty directly. The children were each listing all the things they would ask for, personal requests and, commendably, things for others, too. When he got to one young boy though, the child simply answered, “Todah. Todah. Todah.” Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
Since hearing this story, my prayer life has changed. Today, every prayer I pray ends with three simple words: “Todah. Todah. Todah.”
The evil we encounter in this world is daunting, yes. Things happen in our lives that we must pause to grieve. Pains and fears grip us even as we seek to live exemplary lives. Exhaustion from tending to our cares blurs our vision. However, I have discovered that goodness expressed in the simple act of counting our blessings and giving thanks is far more powerful than the evil. Choosing to be thankful is in fact, a remarkable healing balm for our spiritual and emotional wounds.
Thanksgiving recognizes on one day the attitude to be exemplified every day. May we all develop the daily habit of counting our blessings and offering heartfelt thanks. Happy Thanksgiving.