Thanksgiving isn’t just a day in the calendar year. Thanksgiving day is meant to be a reminder of something that’s an essential part of us, something we need to nurture.
The spiritual aspect of life is grounded in a sense of appreciation. If you read this little page and pauseeven before you get to the bottom lineand think about something for which you feel a sense of appreciation, it will have served a sacred purpose.
I have deep, fond memories of Thanksgiving-day gatherings. Growing up with five brothers and two sisters, with aunts and uncles who also had big Boston families, meant that Thanksgiving was always huge. We usually had more than thirty of us, and often had more than one turkey. As she was serving, my mother would say, “Okay, who wants a leg?”
My dear grandmother would say, “I’ll have the part that goes over the fence last.” Then she would chuckle that unique chuckle of hers, sometimes throwing her head back as she did.
Now there was a woman filled with a deep sense of appreciation. It wasn’t until I was older that I wondered how she could feel so appreciativeafter I learned that three of her six children did not live to adulthood, and she had her left leg removed at age 18 after the birth of her first child, and she had lived in real honest-to-God poverty. I absorbed a deep sense of appreciation from her.
She has been gone for a long time, but I keep learning things from her. How is that? I’ve come to realize that one source of appreciation comes from deprivation. It makes sense. Go without it long enough and suddenly a glass of fresh water is precious. But you can have appreciation for clean water without being deprived of it. It’s a matter of not taking it for granted.
I don’t think you can manufacture or force a sense of appreciation. It doesn’t come on command. But my non-religious but deeply spiritual Catholic grandmother modeled it. She lived it. She taught us to pray: “God bless mommy and daddy, and my brothersChetty, Billy, Arty, Albie and Johnie, and my sisters Gwen and Dotty.” I came after Bill. Art came two years after me. So my early roll had just three others on the siblings list, then there were four, and so forth.
But that’s the key. Others…looking outside of the small package we call the self, and realizing the larger Self, capital S. As the years go by I’m less enamored by the personal independence that was so important to me in my youth and more attracted to the sacred sense of inter-dependence.
A genuine sense of appreciation needs to be nurtured. There’s no magic formula. Stop for a few Sabbath moments now and then and think about someone who was a model of courage, integrity and generosity. Hold the picture of that person in your mind and say, “Thank you.” If they’re still living, make sure you tell them. If they are no longer alive, speak to them as if they were listening. Who knows, they may be. They are no further from you than your thoughts; they are as close to you as your sense of appreciation. Take the time to nourish your spiritual garden by silently saying thank you.’ It comes back as a blessing that sinks into your soul. So, thank you!