Gratitude is Always an Option


November 2011

I thought this column would be easy to write. Gratitude – that’s easy; I’m thankful…thankful for a place to live, for having enough to feed my kids and to pay some bills. My situation is definitely far from ideal or perfect, but there are many things for which to be grateful.

However, as I began thinking about this column and how I wanted to intertwine all the loveliness of Autumn with its colors and dancing leaves in the wind, Halloween and all the magic of the season, and especially its crown and glory, the Thanksgiving holiday, I found myself in circumstances that produced the contrary: self-pity instead of selflessness, bitterness instead of betterment and discouragement instead of decorum.

A perfect case of Murphy’s Law.

How do I write about gratitude when I am wallowing in these very ugly attitudes? I am learning that you can be thankful even when things are not going well. Many of us are in circumstances that do not reflect that Norman Rockwell picture of the happy family gathered around the Thanksgiving feast. Many of us are still looking for work to improve our lives and our children’s lives. Many of us are in relationships that are difficult at best. How can we be grateful when there is so much darkness and turmoil in the world, even within our own lives?

I am reminded of a story from Corrie Ten Boom’s A Hiding Place. Corrie and her family were arrested in Holland in 1944 for harboring and protecting Jews. She and her sister were together in the Ravensbruck camp. Now, these were dire circumstances. But her sister encouraged her to be thankful even for their present difficulties. On one of these occasions, a minor annoyance was the fleas in their bunker. Corrie told her sister she was trying to be thankful, but could not be thankful for the fleas. Her sister still encouraged her to be thankful, even for fleas. Later, Corrie found out it was because of the fleas that their dreaded prison guard visits were few.

Gratitude is always an option; always free. It is just the muck of our attitudes that thwart thanksgiving. There is always something to be grateful for. In this part of San Mateo County, there is wonderful, clean air (that is something I just can’t live without), sweeping vistas, delicious Hetch Hetchy water and the few occasions when one drives to the intersection of Oceana Boulevard. and Manor Drive in Pacifica and there are no other cars. So in our difficulties and for some, their suffering, gratitude can always be an option. As W. J. Cameron wrote,

“It is literally true, as the thankless say, that they have nothing to be thankful for. He who sits by the fire, thankless for the fire, is just as if he had no fire. Nothing is possessed save in appreciation, of which thankfulness is the indispensable ingredient. But a thankful heart hath a continual feast.”

So I hope thanksgiving will be a part of your feast this holiday. And if we practice thanksgiving throughout the year, we will be the richer for it. Happy Thanksgiving, and thanks for reading.

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