This weekend finds us tending family fires, both the cozy and the more crackling kind. After all there are few families who resemble the Waltons, all warm and fuzzy with never any cross words between them. My family is more like the Bickersons, actually, we all have much to say and if it gets a bit heated at times, ah well, that’s life. Yet beneath the prickly surface we are bound to each other deeply and unconditionally.
My husband and I don’t see our respective families often; we live hundreds of miles from them, and have since we left our homes for college. On Thanksgiving we all make the effort to reunite – first with his family then with mine. It’s the one holiday that is sacrosanct and I love the tradition. Parents, brothers, sisters, spouses, nieces, nephews, and now their spouses and children, all pilgrimage to a family house to squeeze around a growing assortment of tables and feast the day away.
Thanksgiving isn’t one of those hallmark card holidays, you know the ones whose only purpose is to lighten our wallets. Hey, it’s very good these days to boost the economy, but in our family Valentine’s Day, Mothers’ & Fathers’ Days pass us by without fanfare. Thanksgiving is different. It offers a genuine opportunity to take inventory of our lives and devote a day, or even a weekend, to reflect on our personal good fortunes.
I’m among those who hold an optimistic perspective about life and tend to view the proverbial cup as half full. The way I see it – each individual is on this planet for a finite period and what happens after that is up to personal interpretation. I’ve been around long enough to know that a few problems will give way to better days and there will be gorgeous sunrises and sunsets that bookend each one regardless of the content between.
Research shows that an attitude of appreciation helps boost the immune system, which keeps all kinds of nasty stress causing ailments at bay. And while money may help lower stress, studies also find it is not the panacea some people like to think. Generally speaking, altruistic acts foster personal well-being. As His Holiness the Dalai Lama says,
If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.
I spend time as a hospice companion and it’s a great teacher for the practice of “count your blessings.” Offering friendship to people facing the end of life is proving to be a priceless gift to myself where I’m privileged to witness profound, yet simple examples of genuine appreciation.
One patient’s caregiver is grateful for each morning he’s able to maneuver his wife’s increasingly rigid limbs to dress her for the day.
Another patient eagerly waits for my visits so I can read the day’s news events because her eyes no longer cooperate with her habit of voracious reading.
And although taking care of her mother until that final breath keeps this caregiver virtually housebound, she is filled with gratitude for the opportunity to share such an intimate journey with her hero.
IMAGINE BEING THANKFUL FOR SUCH HARDSHIPS IN LIFE.
The late Steve Jobs said,
Remembering that you are going to die is the best way to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose.
To me that means live your dreams, have no regrets and be thankful for the opportunity – all the opportunities, in fact.
I move that each day be designated personal thanks day. All those in favor …?