As if our wide-open blue skies weren’t enough to confirm the beauty of this land (look in any direction other than south to exclude the “brown cloud”), the calendar has rolled around to show us the changing colors of fall. One of the many benefits of the ancestors’ land in the canyon is an abundance of breath-taking views this time of year.
This is when I find some pay-off for my chores and labor on the land. It is a privilege to scan the mountainsides and banks of the river each fall for the amazing colors and shapes of the trees and bushes. A good mixture of choke cherries and wild plums mixed in with the pines and aspens adds to this spectacular variety.
With these sights in my mind I consider the history and purpose of what we now call the Thanksgiving Holiday, and the deeper and broader idea of gratitude. As much as I like the big dinner, there’s much more that deserves our thoughts and considerations.
We have a household tradition of giving each person around the Thanksgiving table time to speak on at least one thing that they are thankful for. As the kids have grown older the responses have become less humorous and sometimes surprisingly profound.
What is gratitude? Five different dictionaries confirmed a pretty consistent understanding of that word. The terms thankful, appreciation, kindness, grateful and pleasing were the most common words found in all of the definitions. I took another look at those five words, grabbed a blank piece of paper and conducted an experiment. With my name in a centered circle on the paper I drew five radial lines, one for each word. It looked a little like a sunburst. Then I added specific people, events, observations and recent experiences along those lines that match these words of gratitude. The results were an inspiring and heartwarming depiction of life. Give it a try by going a little further and ask, “Why am I grateful for this?” You are likely to be pleased with the results.
What a marvelous outline these five words create for a family blessing, or for use at the beginning and ending of each day. I have always appreciated the unique and honest expressions of thanksgiving and gratitude heard at these family gatherings. The larger and wider the attendance around the table, the better for all of us to hear each other and be heard in return.
This annual experience is especially important in an age where some who claim positions of leadership base that decision on doom and gloom predictions, baseless character assassination and clairvoyant boasts that they know with authority the darkness that lurks in the soul and mind of their opponents. It is immensely satisfying to confirm each year that within our household the next generation’s worldview includes positive expressions of gratitude, hope and respect for all people.
Certainly there’s more value and satisfaction to be found in recording positive experiences, rather than obsessing on rumors, accusations, threats and assumptions. Lately I’ve found real satisfaction ignoring messages that rely on those dark and mysterious origins, and instead seeking out sources of inspiration, gratitude and thanksgiving.