Friday, October 05, 2007

Thanksgiving

There is a lot of wisdom in counting our blessings and more wisdom in remembering to be thankful for them.

Many, many motivational movements are built around the idea of focusing on the positive and noticing the things we have already acquired and achieved. Some of them move from noticing the positive to offering something positive to others - either through charities or through acts of random kindness. All of this is good.

To be thankful is more than this, and trickier. Thankfulness means acknowledging that we are not, alone, responsible for our achievemnts. Thankfulness means acknowleding that we are not, alone, responsible for what we have acquired. Someone or something has given us a gift - many gifts. We resist knowing this because knowing it means acknowledging that things could have turned out differently. Someone could have given us different gifts (or no gifts at all).

I remember sitting in a math class in grade eight and realizing that I was lucky that I could do math. It wasn't that I didn't do the work: I did all the work. But I was helping someone who was working harder than I was and she just could not put the pieces together and understand math. I would work hard and do well. She would work hard and do less well. That's what we say people who have talent are "gifted."

What changes in us when we are thankful for the gifts we have been given? Think about someone you love handing you a box. Open the box, and find that it contains something you have wanted for a long, long time - something that you did not believe anyone knew you wanted - something you did not believe you would have. Now look up from the gift, and look into the eyes of the person who has given it to you. What do you feel?

My partner and mentor, Chris, tells a story that his mentor told him. In it, he says that everything comes down to one question: Do you believe the world is a friendly or an unfriendly place?

Whether or not we believe the world is friendly, thankfulness reminds us that there are friendly forces in the world who provide us with what we need when we need it, and who surprise us with the joy and comfort we need always. When we are thankful, we connect with the world that is connecting with us. When we are thankful, we are supported by more than the resources we contain within us.

Look into the eyes of someone who has given you something you value.

Be thankful.

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