Gratitude

We grew up with the tradition of a family prayer before each meal. At our house we had several prayers that were learned through repeated use. We knew that before the food was passed, we would pause and say a thank you prayer. When we became adults, we continued that tradition with our children, using some of the same prayers that we had used when we were growing up. Our son and his family have adapted that tradition slightly. When they sit down for a family meal, they go around the table and each person shares some of the specific things for which they are thankful. It is a delightful time of connecting with each other’s day and being reminded of the blessings that surround us each day.

Last night we had a family dinner at our home with our son and his family. In the late afternoon, our daughter-in-law had an errand to run, so she dropped by with the children and left them at our home for a little while. Our son came to our house after work and soon his wife was able to join us. We are in the process of developing new routines for our grandchildren when they come to visit. They know that there are toys upstairs and that they are welcome to play with them. Yesterday they found out about the shelves of children’s books in the living room. It was their first visit since the books had been unpacked. As diner approached, the children were given tasks to complete. The nine-year-old set the plates on the table. The six-year-old filled water glasses. The three-year-old put a napkin at each place. The children were cheerful in their tasks, adjusting to the new routines in a new place.

As we went around the table, sharing the things for which we are grateful, the three-year-old was exuberant. She was thankful for the dinner. When pressed to say which food she liked best, she said, “Everything! I like the meat. I like the carrots. I like everything!”

I couldn’t match her unrestrained enthusiasm, but I had a sense of how she felt. It was hard for me to name just one thing for which I was grateful. The temptation was to go on and on with a long list of things. We are just adjusting to a new way of life. For the first time since we have been grandparents, we live close enough to our grandchildren for them to drop by for a short visit. After many years of just the two of us eating at our table, the leaves are in the table once again and all of the chairs are around it. We still have a lot of boxes to unpack and we have all kinds of undone tasks, but enough things have been unpacked to give us a functional home. We have learned enough about our new place to go grocery shopping and put a meal on the table. We have been blessed with good health and the rain stopped long enough for us to take a nice walk yesterday. Life is good.

Thanksgiving is just a week away. With the pandemic and the fact that we have been traveling a lot over the past few months, including having moved from a place where the infection rate is soaring out of control, we are being very careful to keep to our “bubble.” When we go out, we wear our face masks and keep our distance. At home we are limiting our contacts to our children and grandchildren. Most of the business we need to transact can be done over the Internet or telephone. So our Thanksgiving celebration will be the same people as we had for dinner last night, around the same table.

We aren’t the only ones who are learning new routines. Celebrations for many will be muted as they limit exposure and keep to themselves. I’ve read several articles about how to scale down celebrations, and prepare recipes for smaller gatherings. There have been quite a few articles about people who are cancelling the celebration of holidays all together out of fear of spreading the infection.

I don’t want to downplay the seriousness of the pandemic nor the need to take extra precautions, but I am also aware that there is a unique character to the Thanksgiving holiday. We need to find appropriate ways to express our thanks for the blessings of this life. Setting aside one day a year to give thanks is, obviously, inadequate. We need to be aware of our gratitude every day. And I am aware of the cultural problems with the history of settlers imposing the holiday on indigenous people. Still, the concept of thanksgiving is a worthwhile investment of our time.

It seems to be a good thing that we are in the process of discovering new traditions to go with a new phase of our lives and a new place to live. Like our grandchildren learning the chores and rules of being at grandma’s and grandpa’s home, the new experiences don’t have to be a burden. They can become a new adventure. Without minimizing the pain, suffering and grief that have come with this pandemic, perhaps there are some good things that can come out of it as we reexamine our priorities, reevaluate our traditions and rediscover our connections to one another.

We’ve got a week to go. There are more boxes to unpack, more things to put away. There are a few more things that need to be passed on to others. There are some new lessons to be learned. May we undertake these aspects of our lives with a sense of gratitude and remember the good gifts we enjoy. May we rediscover the enthusiasm of a three-year-old who is at home in her world and excited about the new possibilities that are unfolding every day.

Thank you for everything!

Copyright (c) 2020 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!