2015-11-25 / Columns

Giving thanks for all my blessings—whether mundane or magnificent


We are indeed a strange culture. All year long we get away with grumbling, whining, complaining, and live our lives with too much anger and too little grace.

We cut each other off on highways, push our way through malls, never pausing to smile at an elderly person on a bench just waiting for some human connection.

We can’t seem to get along with our neighbors, our politicians, even our families.

And we keep telling each other how bad things are. The government. The workplace. The health system.

We’re vocal about the relatives we don’t care for, the ungrateful kids we raised, and yes, even the weather, as if every storm and windstorm is our personal burden to bear.

We grumble about the prices of everything.

And then along comes November, at that last Thursday of the month and suddenly, we sit up and take notice. We remember to be thankful, grateful, awed by all that’s good in our world.

We remember that in so many ways, we are enormously lucky.

We pause on the spinning, whirling wheel of time, if only for one day, for reflection and yes, thanks.

And soon, we’ll be at it once again, with long-overdue expressions of gratitude. We’ll say what we’d been meaning to all year: That our cups runneth over, that we truly do appreciate our bounty and that we’re ever mindful of it.

For the moment, we’ll mean it, and feel righteous and pure. But then it will probably take another year before we remember to do it again.

In the frantic rush of modern life, gratitude is one of the casualties. Of course, we mean to pause in the frenzy to remember our good fortune. We truly do.

But chances are that only around Thanksgiving, when gratitude is a cultural norm, do we stop the world, however briefly, to express our thanks like polite children.

And as soon as the day passes— as soon as we mark our annual reminder to sit up and take notice of things like love, peace, friendship and laughter— we go back to grumbling. Now, like naughty children, we forget about bounty and life’s gifts for the other 364 long days and nights.

I plead guilty. I’m one of those naughty children too.

Sometimes, in the crush of daily life, I forget what it means to have poetry and symphonies and colors in my world.

I neglect to mention, in the ebb and flow of existence, that I am overwhelmingly grateful for children and grandchildren to love, parents who gave me values and devotion, a husband who holds me when the world is snapping at my heels.

Have I remembered, since last Thanksgiving, that along with cell phones that can practically tap dance, and a whole alphabet soup of gadgetry and technology, there’s also a beech tree in our side yard that can do more for the soul than anything man has wrought?

Do I remind myself, often enough, that even though there are wars and murders and bombs and beheadings, there also are heroes out there who rescue babies from burning buildings, look embarrassed at any fuss, and say—and mean—that they’d do it all again tomorrow.

Do I celebrate the simplest pleasures—a Sunday walk with my husband when the sun is shining and there’s a breeze, a play or concert that leaves us dazzled, a wonderful dinner with laughter as the best ingredient of all, a joyous welcome from our daughter’s almost-human dog, Rosie?

So yes, I give thanks.

Surely not nearly enough or clearly enough.

But when I count up my blessings—the tenderness that still wraps around my life, work that I love, glorious moments that measure out the years—I am humbled by gratitude.

As much for the mundane as for the magnificent. pinegander@aol.com

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