Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Welcome, Janet Elizabeth Jones

The "I" in Gratitude

First thing I need to be thankful about is the opportunity to post here today. So, thank you, Ginger!

I told Ginger I was going to come here today counting my blessings. I'll spare you the itemization. It's a lengthy list, and you have treasured blessings of your own to be glad for. And when it all comes down to it, my list and your list would probably tally up pretty much the same, and I think it's safe to say, it would be the same for our fellow human beings throughout the world. That's the thing about gratitude. It's a human thing. It's also like a garden. It has to be cultivated.

I was trying to be clever with the title of this post and say that. Not sure I managed it, but the three ideas I'm striving for is that gratitude is, like every other human emotion, a state of mind. As such, it's as unique to each of us as our individual self-perception, and it's a choice each of us make, every single day, just like anything else in life.

In fewer words (never easy for us writers), I realize that in order for me to be the "I" in gratitude, I, as an individual, must consciously decide to be as mindful as I can be of all I have to be thankful for.

In other words, I have to get over myself and be grateful.Grateful that I'm here. Grateful that you're here. Grateful that there is a "here" for us to share. Grateful that we have time and opportunity and intelligence and perseverance to make this "here" the very best "here" we can share, the best we can pass on to those who come after us.

For many of you today, in this moment, faced as you may be with grief, pain, illness, relentless expenses, ailing dear ones, uncertain futures and unemployment, this decision will call upon every ounce of personal strength and fortitude you have in you. If you find yourself in such a situation, and you are able to be grateful in spite of it, then I hope you know, you're exhibiting one of the most remarkable and beautiful things about being human that humanity can show. And gratitude in the face of such hardships, as you probably already know, brings with it its own rewards.

And you already know, too, that gratitude is a state of mind, like joy, and peace, and humility, and also like anger, envy, and greed. Either we carry it with us, or we don't. It's a choice we make, as individuals, and we share it with others by expressing it, just like a smile. We may not always see the difference we make when we show our gratitude, but I like to think it makes the day brighter, even if we don't see it right away. For one thing, I believe being grateful is good for me, regardless, and saying "thank you" makes me feel right with myself and the world. Because it's not all about me. And it's not all about you. It's all about all of us, together, making individual decisions to create as peaceful, safe and happy a world as we can.

And it starts by being grateful. The reason it has to start there is because when we see what all we have to be thankful for, we realize how precious--and fragile--life is, and that makes us want to protect it, to cherish each other and to make the time we spend here mean something.

There's no telling what might happen if suddenly, we all woke up and decided to be grateful together. Oh, hold on. Yeah. Here in America, it's called Thanksgiving Day.

Unhappily, that holiday is sometimes overshadowed, because being thankful doesn't sell TVs, dishwashers, stadium seats, tires, toys, cars, Christmas trees, diamond rings, thigh masters, Ginzu knives, Spiderman decoder rings or any of the other things that we like to play with and own and feel good about adding to our existence. Sure enough, in our consumer society, gratitude doesn't pay and being thankful just doesn't sell a thing.

Well, except for turkeys and those yummy sweet potatoes that Mother bakes in the oven and puts marshmallows on top of. Slurp. And then there's the apple salad... :)

But if we notice Thanksgiving Day being overshadowed, if not downright skipped over, during our holiday season, we can still keep it alive in our hearts. Because, look, families still gather together and observe whatever the holiday means to them, and this in itself is a tribute to the importance of being thankful.
It's just that, this month, which is set aside as a time of thankfulness, we're going to find ourselves challenged and distracted on all sides by things (or the pursuit of them), situations and many tribulations.

But in our hearts, and in our ways, we can make the decision to be grateful, and we can show others the appreciation that will, in turn, make them grateful they got out of bed today.

Even if your thanks goes unacknowledged, it's a good thing in itself. It carries with it nothing less than the power to heal in cosmic proportions, because being grateful is another way to love, and loving others overcomes strangleholds of old emotions left too long, turns curses into blessings, brings what's broken back together, and best of all, brings each of us home to ourselves and makes us realize what it really means to be human and alive.
So, thank you. :)

Janet Elizabeth Jones

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