Thanksgiving: Is Gratitude Enough?

 This weekend we Canadians have an early excuse to overindulge with family and friends. Our American neighbours to the south have to wait until November to sup on roasted flesh or the tofu equivalent, but we have a chance to wade through the damp leaves even before the pumpkins come out in full force, and follow what was originally a European tradition of giving thanks. We apparently moved our weekend of celebration to October so as not to conflict with Remembrance Day, and perhaps because our harvest season arrives a bit earlier in the north. But whenever we choose to gather, the theme of gratitude remains the same, and it’s easy to imagine our ancestors delighting in the edible riches of nature before the dark months of winter descend. 

Gratitude is ancient, and it is new. In recent years, the expression of gratitude has been elevated from simple good manners to a self development practice, although many of us remember being told to “count our blessings” as a child. 
At the time this counsel was generally offered as more of a threat than a prescription for warm-heartedness, with the implication that if you didn’t count whatever blessings you could muster, dark forces would know the truth, and any meager delights you did have would be removed forthwith. This was especially so if you had foolishly appeared ungrateful for some act of adult kindness such as being served brussel sprouts, or the putting on of wool pants over bare legs. 

Was genuine gratitude a part of your life growing up? Perhaps in some households where bedtime prayers were specific to the good things experienced in life or longed for in dreams, children may have felt a warmth creeping into their bellies as they considered the lovely moments of their day. But children don’t really need gratitude do they?  They already live in the moment, either appreciating it or loudly resisting it, but not needing to be reminded of its value. Perhaps we forget how to be grateful when we age. 

When you experienced a gift of pure joy as a child, was there an instinct to stand in awe and appreciation, or like a dog with a forbidden bone, did you run to hide it in your bed? It would seem that for most of us, to truly witness that beautiful pain in the heart, to acknowledge it, savor it, and open ourselves in humble thanks is an act of risk, a softening into deserving that makes us feel vulnerable. Sometimes to get there we have to dig through scatterings of guilt about what we feel we have with-held from others, and fear that appreciation will somehow seep into full blown complacency until, lulled by a warm pool of beauty, we forget to tread water and sink like a stone. 

And yet if we dare, if we truly dare to slow down long enough to look at what lies all around us, if we pause in our rush to the finish line to notice it’s a lovely day for a walk in the rain, is there anything more we need to transform that moment, that day, that vision of a life well lived? 

If there is one thing that a sense of appreciation can transform it is despair or grief. When we lose, or seem to lose someone we love,  we lose our sense of self in relation to them, and then see only what is missing, rather than all that has been brought to us in the knowing of them. And while focusing upon their beautiful presence – rather than their absence – may also bring soft tears, it is a wise way to open a heart that could otherwise threaten to close in fear. 

Some years ago a very dear friend of mine passed suddenly, leaving her children, family and a whole community in shock. She was a powerful, much loved soul. I brought through a transmission to be shared at her memorial, and in the wake of her loss, it spoke of thanks. Thanks as I believe we are meant to understand the experience.

“…There are so many brilliant photographs
inside of us

and they live on if we let them
they grow
when we least expect it
and transform themselves
into the moving images
of Now
and every Now
after this

There is nothing but love
inside of us
and the love we find there
is nothing less than All Love
no distinction between
the love we feel for her
and the love she feels for us
nothing to leave
nothing to end
nothing we can ever lose
If we know only this
then we will feel the warmth
of our beloved
and she will
be always near

And so
for her birth
for her being
for her remarkable presence
in every one of our lives

And thanks above all
for the faith she taught so well
the same faith
that now leads us toward the acceptance
of how her gifts to us
have only just begun

In this way
she grows ever clearer
in every image
we hold within
In this way
her love becomes us
and we have not lost
but won…”      

On a holiday weekend when we may be parted from some of those whom we love, we may feel pressured to celebrate, or serve, even while fatigued or sorrowful, and our own sense of delight may seem dampened under a dark sky rather than illuminated by the true wealth of our lives. So let us appreciate with honesty only, let us weep first if we must, and then eat only what tastes sweet and pure upon the tongue.  For yes, gratitude is more than enough, it is everything, but it comes always with the price of surrender. To live with genuine knowing that even in the face of loss, we deserve love, a Love which never dies.  

I give thanks, for you, for me, for my beloveds, for this moment and the next, and for sweet potato pie. 



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