Thursday, November 22, 2012

Word of the Day: GRATEFUL

Well, here it is, Thanksgiving night.  The parades are over.  The dinners have been cooked and eaten, with leftovers being put in the refrigerator.  Tummies are full, if not overstuffed, and more than one belt has been loosened.  

In preparing for this blog entry, I was surprised to find out how many countries celebrate their form of Thanksgiving or some sort of "harvest festival", or mark it in other ways.  In addition to the United States, the list includes:
(Jour de l'Action de grâce)
Germany (Erntedankfest or Harvest Thanksgiving Festival)
Grenada (commemorating the anniversary of the 1983 U.S.-led invasion following the deposition and execution of Grenadian Prime Minister Maurice Bishop)
Japan (Kinrō Kansha no Hi or Labor Thanksgiving Day)
Korea (Chuseok; a harvest festival based on the lunar calendar)
Liberia (commemorating its colonization by many former U.S. slaves)

The Netherlands (commemorating the hospitality extended to pilgrims on their way to the New World)
Norfolk Island (brought to the island by those working on U.S. whaling ships visiting there)

For many people here in the U.S., Thanksgiving is nothing more than a day off from work, except for those who work for certain retailers here in the U.S. (i.e. Sears, Target, Wal-Mart, etc.).  How working on Thanksgiving night, beginning at eight or nine o'clock, is justifiable would suffice to fill up another blog posting.  (Hint: I will be doing that soon.)  For those who do have the day off, it is a day to relax, hopefully, perhaps depending on who is cooking and for how many.  

One of my pet peeves is regarding Thanksgiving in relation to Christmas.  I am one of those people who do not want to hear Christmas music until after Thanksgiving.  A couple of radio stations in the area begin playing some Christmas tunes prior to Thanksgiving.  Yes, I also love Christmas songs, but I want to enjoy them for the Christmas holiday, not as an enticement to go out and buy things.  In fact, I actually heard one Christmas song being played before Halloween this year!  (Before Thanksgiving is bad enough, but before Halloween?)  Here's a cartoon that I saw a couple of years ago that captures my sentiments exactly in a humorous way:

Although not a religious holiday at its core, many churches here mark this day by highlighting the act of giving thanks or being in the state of gratitude.  Whether lived out religiously or not, being grateful is worthwhile...and, I would argue, necessary.  We have so much for which we should be grateful.  Then again, we do tend to focus on, and get all wrapped up in, all the negative in our lives.  Mind you, I am not discounting those who have things really hard  -- which does not include being furious that the jerk in front of you got the last one of the latest technological fad or some other on-sale item -- or that the burdens one carries on his/her shoulders don't matter at all.  My focus here is on those who have problems but see them as greater than what they are, as well as those who just simply have a lot on their plate (sans the Thanksgiving meal, that is).  Problems aplenty or problems overblown, being grateful is both a necessary state of mind and way to live one's life.

I, too, have fallen into the trap of letting focusing on the negative usurp gratitude's rightful place in one's life.  It is an easy and a common trap.  After spending literally decades of doing that, I have become better at not focusing on the negative, and the times I have noticed myself do that have been a welcome change.  I am on the right track, where I wasn't for far too long, and I am grateful for that.

See, there's one thing already!

Now, let me add to that one thing...because I can.  While this is not a comprehensive list, and I admit that my focus is not always clear from time to time regarding these, they are things for which I am truly grateful:
My (relative) health: There are those with chronic pain and/or other health issues I've never faced
A roof over my head: Not everyone can say that

Heating, cooling, hot water, electricity, clean and running water: Not everyone has these; many have none of these
I never go hungry: Too many go hungry and too many die because of it
A bed to sleep in: An easy one to overlook, while many people do not have that simple comfort

My parents: Without them, who knows what would have happened to me
My close friends: They offer me their laughter, their open ears, their open hearts, and their uniqueness

My acquaintances/people who share a particular similar interest: I would probably have no one with whom I could exchange ideas and similar experiences in relation to those interests
Those who have treated me unkindly or unfairly: They remind me of how not to be and keep me on the right path of being a good person
My life experiences, good and bad: While I hate the bad ones, they teach me and make me who I am

Like I said, this isn't a comprehensive list, but it's not a bad start, wouldn't you say?  When I look at these, I say to myself, "Wow, how could I forget these?"  Try making a list yourself and see what you come up with.  Be honest, don't make any items up, and don't scrimp.  If, after you finish, you say to yourself, anything along the lines of, "Yeah, but...", imagine your life without all of them!  I think your perspective might just change.

So, what would be on your grateful list?


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