Happy Thanksgiving, Dear Reader.
This has been a rough year for everyone. But that is all the more reason that this day is so important. Even when things are dark and dire, we must be people of thanks.
A few days ago, I did an exercise with my students. I would like to invite you to do the same if you have the time.
On a piece of paper make 2 columns. Label the one on the left Column A and the right Column B.
Then label Column B: "Reasons to be Upset."
Take a few moments to write down all the reasons that you should be upset. Yes, you can write down things that are going on around the world, but really you should focus on things that are directly affecting your life.
-Are there problems at home?
-is money tight?
-have you lost someone you love?
-is work stressful?
-are things going wrong with your Thanksgiving plans?
There are many more things to think about, but just take a minute or two to make that list.
When you finish, go to Column A and label it "Reasons to be Thankful." Then begin writing down all things in your life for which you should be thankful.
Keep in mind that you are not writing down things that you feel thankful for, but things for which you know you should be thankful. Very often we are not experiencing the feeling of gratitude for our blessings that we know we should, but we can still acknowledge how we are blessed even if we don't feel it.
-Do I have anyone in my life who cares about me?
-Do I have a roof over my head?
-Will I eat today? (there are millions who will not)
-Can I walk?
-Can I talk?
-Do I have any material things in my life that I enjoy?
-Am I able to contribute to the world in a positive way?
-Am I relatively free from pain at this moment?
-Are there people I care about who are healthy?
-Do I live in relative peace where I live?
One of the things I have learned in life is that you cannot be truly happy unless you are truly thankful. I have known people who have beaten and battered by horrible tragedies and injustices in life. Yet these same people were so thankful for what little good fortune they had that they were always filled with joy. On the flip side, I have seen people with every conceivable material and social comfort. And yet because they were not grateful for these blessings, they were filled with misery.
Six years ago, if you had asked me what one of my least favorite activities was, it would be walking. I hated it. If I had to walk from one end of the school to the other, I would complain up and down. If we went to a place or an event that required us to walk around for hours, I would mutter and moan the entire time.And you would not want to get me started on stairs.
Then five years ago, I broke my back and couldn't walk anymore. After a month-long hospitalization, two surgeries, and several months of physical therapy, I was finally able to walk on my own right around Thanksgiving.
Since then, walking has become one of my favorite things.
Not a day goes by that I am not filled with joy that I can walk from one end of the house to the other, that I can go to the store and do the shopping for my wife, that I can go to my sister's and play with her kids, that I can stand in the presence of Our Lord at Holy Mass.
I should have always been thankful for that blessing, but I didn't feel gratitude because I did not keep in mind what a gift I had been given in the ability to walk. I'm reminded too of the first Mass I attended after the lockdowns. Receiving Our Lord in the Eucharist caused me to tremble with emotion. When I was able to bring my wife Communion so she could receive Him for the first time in months, we were both overcome with gratitude and we were reminded how thankful we should be for this wonderful sacrament.
This life is joy and sorrow and everything in between that ebb and flow. When you are feeling pulled down to sadness, I would recommend looking over the list you made.
If Column A is longer than Column B, use that as a reminder of how blessed your life is and how the blessings outweigh the burdens.
If Column B is longer than Column A, then bring this to Our Lord in prayer. We always have to approach God with how we honestly feel. If it appears as though our burdens outweigh our blessings, then we must reach out to Him and ask for two thing: that He give us relief from our pains and that He open our minds and hearts to the blessings we do not see.
In either case, let us use this Thanksgiving List as an opportunity to cultivate this attitude of gratitude.
I am thankful for so many things in my life:
-Our Lord and all the saints
-All of my material, social, emotional, and spiritual blessings.
-For all the blessings that our Lord has given to the world.
-And for you, dear reader.