Well here is the obligatory post about gratitude that we all do on Thanksgiving, except this time I want to ask you something…..to whom are you grateful? I mean we are all grateful for our family, having a roof over our heads, food in our bellies, the companionship of friends, etc. Some of us are grateful for other things too like having a job, having healthcare, being sober one more day, or for living in the country we do. Others get more basic like being grateful for waking up every morning. And still others are very specific like being grateful for their favorite food or toy–kids in particular tend to express gratitude for such concrete things.
However there still remains the question from whom we believe such things proceed. For most Americans the source of all blessings is God. Although Thanksgiving originated from an American Puritan ritual and therefore has Christian origins, it has changed since those early colonial days (as all such occasions do). The majority of Americans will still pray to the Christian God but more than ever before many will pray to another god or not at all. Even those with the most atheistic mindset recognize that we are not in control of the universe and that many things happen to us, both good and bad, for which we don’t have an coherent, logical explanation. An explanation may exist, but for now it is beyond us. Regardless of whether we call it luck, call it God, or call it Chaos Theory, we all have a distinctive feeling of “phew, dodged a bullet there”.
That’s the origin of true gratitude– the understanding that instead of being warm and snug in our homes today, we could have been the ones to have our homes destroyed by hurricane Sandy. Instead of eating a feast today in the U.S., we could have been born in a country suffering from famine and drought. Instead of spending the day in comfort in the company of family and friends we could spend it behind bars in isolation for speaking out in public against a government that doesn’t recognize freedom of speech. There are so many things that we take for granted that are the result of being in the right place at the right time.
Unfortunately some people say they are grateful, but they don’t mean it in the same way. Some believe they have been blessed because of what they do or who they are. Many religions believe that their god only blesses those that follow his/her rules. In addition, these types of religions also usually believe that their people, out of all the billions of people on this planet, are special and to be born into this group is to be “chosen” for favoritism. Then there are the people who believe everything they have, without exception, is the fruit of their own labor. To whom are these people grateful? Ultimately themselves.
True gratitude involves the acknowledgement of grace (or luck, depending on your religious beliefs) and grace is by definition unearned. It isn’t who you are or what you have earned. It’s all the stuff that allowed you to be who you are in the first place–to be born in the time, place and to the family you were born into. It is all of the unnoticed breaks, the lack of obstacles you had to face, and sometimes the misfortunes that others did face that made room for you–those kinds of things constitute grace. So today I am going to focus on true gratitude and grace and all of the subtle things, the heretofore unnoticed things that have made my life easier.
Many blessings to you and yours this fine day. Enjoy your day wherever you are.