In this country, most people are preparing for a big feast day tomorrow. Yes, the irony is that giving thanks is blurring into a national leave family and rush to spend money on the hot deals blasted by savvy advertisers, but hopefully the concept of stopping to be thankful will still be shared and celebrated.
One of the most important things that my mother taught me was to stop and reflect, and see in the moment the always present gift of gratitude. It’s more than seeing the glass half full. It’s a perspective that releases the impeding weights of self-pity, blame, and bitterness. It’s the clearing of the inner eyes that opens a window and lets in sunlight and a fresh breeze into the soul. It’s the water that nourishes the ability to give and to love.
Some of the lessons were in the moments of my typical teenage angst and self-absorption.
Me: “Why did I have to get your wide feet and short legs? Why couldn’t I get Dad’s nice feet and skinny legs?”
Mom: “PJ… you should be thankful you have legs and feet. Do you know how many people in this world can’t walk? Some have lost legs and feet, and some never had them. Just think for a moment of what that would be like…”
Me: “Wow! That woman that checked us out was such a sourpuss!”
Mom: “PJ… we don’t know what kind of life she’s had, or what she’s dealing with right now. We have so much to be thankful for.” (Mom briefly holds and squeezes my hand…)
Me: (sighing and glaring at dirty dishes) “I hate dirty dishes.”
Mom: “PJ, when I see dirty dishes, I think of how happy I am that we aren’t hungry. To me, dirty dishes are a reason to be thankful for that.”
(My mother grew up in the Great Depression and Dirty 30’s, so she and my father actually did know what it felt like to face hunger.)
No one visited our home and left hungry. None of my friends woke up without finding their clothes washed, neatly folded and waiting for them in the morning. My mother had a servant’s heart, and it was her way of loving. She was thankful and cheerful about every opportunity she had to serve others.
What I remember about Thanksgiving as a child was my Mom singing and humming in her tiny galley kitchen, holding her harmless spatula aloft if we got too close to the pies, and the unspeakable joyful contentment that emanated from her as she cooked and baked to feed us.
Despite my mother growing up in a home where her father abused her mother, herself and her siblings, despite her first brief marriage to an abusive man, and despite her dreams turning to the reality of the mixed bag of my father who could be wonderful and very awful, and sadly emotionally and verbally abused her, her inner eyes and heart remained thankful and giving.
I do a valiant but poor imitation of my mother, but for every small success that reflects gratitude and love, I give thanks for her example.
I hope that a heavenly messenger carries from my keyboard to her ears… Thanks Mom!