By Naomi Klouda
I recall as a child when the few times our family gathered for big Thanksgiving dinners with extended family. My grandfather on my mother’s side was seated at the head of the table with various uncles and aunts, parents, cousins, along with our own over-populated family of nine children. At that table, in a closed restaurant my mother owned, certain rituals were attended.
One ritual was going around the table to say what we were thankful for. The ceremony took a while even though the turkey might be rapidly cooling. Twenty-five people equals 25 gratitude statements. Many of the relatives were ardent Bible people, so God entered the discussion and it turned into a testimonial. When my turn came, my face turned hot red and I mouthed something about family or food. When you are given multiple siblings to hide behind, public speaking isn’t going to be practiced, let alone perfected.
Those few extended family Thanksgiving dinners stand out in my memory for that particular ritual. There’s a distant sense of nostalgia about where time and all those people went. Our life in far away Alaska meant we didn’t grow up around grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. Such memories became all the more precious for their rareness.
Rather than merely relegating the rite of expressing what we’re thankful for – however uncomfortable it might have been on that one day because there’s no learned habit of it – the idea of rotating in a discussion of gratitude became much more common in recent years for any day of the week. Like the practice of yoga or meditation. The new “grateful for…” movement calls for activities such as writing a gratitude journal or attending talking circles to focus on reflections of the good presences in our lives. We’re increasingly finding that these little happy thoughts send good feedback to our bodies and keep us well.
Author Melodie Beattie wrote: “Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity…. It turns problems into gifts, failures into success, the unexpected into perfect timing, and mistakes into important events.”
Interesting that a practice or custom from Thanksgiving is so highly regarded that its habits should not, in fact, be relegated to a mere one day a year.
“There isn’t anything I’m not thankful for,” Sam Kuzmin, a co-worker, said one day. He builds the ads and does our page layout. That answer stuck with me. Its simplicity managed to speak volumes: grateful for the fresh snow sifting down from a white November sky. Grateful for a job and food and shelter and family. These indeed are the keys to happiness and, not to let the grateful stuff get out of hand, it did occur to me that I was at that moment glad he shared the thought.
At different times in our lives we will be thankful for different things as our lives enlarge or alter. I’m grateful I was able to get to know those Idaho relatives, even for a brief time. I’m grateful for my large family, my children who came after and the wonderful communities where I have lived. I’m grateful the 2012 election is over and that each day we arrive ever closer to winter solstice when day light starts climbing back. I’m grateful for readers who let us know what’s happening or share their opinions and ideas. And to live in this caring community.
Happy Thanksgiving, Homer!
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