November 28, 2008

Cornucopia / Cynthia Dewes

It’s hard not to be thankful in our lives

Cynthia DewesEvery year when we gather for our Thanksgiving “moveable feast” with friends and family, we go around the table, each one saying what he or she is thankful for. But when you are put on the spot like that, it may be hard to think of something, even when you are really grateful for lots of things.

You also may be afraid to sound trite and ho-hum, since we are all thankful for things like great friends, supportive parents or kids who aren’t dead or in jail due to teenage dementia. Or we might hesitate to express thanks for good health and decent jobs when others around us may not have them.

Sometimes the thanks we mention are shared by the other guests. One of us has recovered from a serious illness, perhaps, or has delivered a healthy baby. We have all known about these events in each other’s lives, and we share others’ gratitude.

And sometimes, sadly, we share their painful thanks for a temporary remission of cancer, a new but temporary job or the life of someone dear who has passed away during the year.

Indeed, there are times when we feel anything but grateful. We might actually be mad at God because of the way our lives have been going. We may feel that, through no perceivable fault of our own, we are suffering physical or emotional pain that appears to be never-ending.

That is why Thanksgiving is such a wonderful holiday. It is a time set aside to reconsider our lives and to share those analyses with dear ones. The accumulated good will and love expressed on this day is not only healing, but also inspiring. We are moved to continue on our journey with hope because the examples of “random acts of kindness” which feed hope occur every day.

One of my friends in the little town near us knows that we don’t take the local newspaper and, being Catholic, don’t attend the same church that most of our neighbors do. So she kindly phones me when someone we know is sick or has some terrible event in their life. She keeps me “in the loop” because, as she chuckles, she is my local reporter.

A young man who is a server at a Steak n’ Shake we visited recently greeted us warmly when we sat at his table. He knows how to get a good tip, we thought. But his cheeriness persisted beyond any mere desire to please us in hopes of money. He was funny, attentive without being a pest, and thoughtful of our needs. He made us feel good.

Even my kitten, like all good friends, knows how to read my moods (don’t all pets?). For no good reason like wanting her food, she will hop up next to me and rub affectionately against my arm or sometimes my cheek when I am feigning sleep in the morning. She is a true pal.

These examples are just a few of the things that I am thankful for every day, all day. They may not be the biggies, but they deserve as much gratitude as more cosmic surprises. After all, life is made up largely of small things, with cosmic ones occurring rarely and sometimes never.

It seems to me that if we wake up in the morning, it is a good sign, and everything that follows can be a gift from God.

A “Family Circus” cartoon once had little Dolly say, “Today is a gift. That’s why we call it ‘the present.’ ” I say, Amen.

(Cynthia Dewes, a member of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Greencastle, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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