Comforting Words: Thankful in All Things

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Thankful in All Things

We are often so busy complaining about the things that are either absent from or are in short supply in our lives to notice the blessings that arrived in forms so simple that we miss them.

Take for example my situation this past week. My daughter’s graduation ceremony was on Wednesday and I was about to loose an eye crying because I did not have the money to pay to have her make-up professionally done.

Twenty-four hours later, I am driving her and her friend to the banquet and I am given a reminder why the make-up did not matter, that I was losing focus of what was really important.

I cannot go into the details except to say that a truck rear-ended us in a line of traffic, leaving us with injuries that required medical attention and the back of my vehicle damaged.

However, knowing how stubborn I can be, the Divine was not taking any chances. As if to make sure I understood that I was not focussing on what was important, early the next day, Friday, the pager went off. It was a Unit Clerk from the hospital paging me, the Intern Chaplain on call, to ask me to be with a family requiring prayers for their loved one who was making his transition.

Honestly, I balked a bit, thinking, “How could I do this when I was still shaken myself from yesterday's collision?” Completely focussed on me and my perceived suffering, I continued to question whether whoever is in charge of the order of life did not realise that I could not handle death right now. Further, “My daughter and her friend were in pain and discomfort, we needed a Chaplain ourselves,” I thought.

Within seconds of the questions coming to my mind, I received my answer, which caused me to dig up an old file with articles that I had written some years ago. I invite you to share this Word of Comfort with me, “Thankful in all Things,” and the Words from Scripture and the Words from the Heart.

WORDS FROM SCRIPTURES

From the New Testament:
1 Thessalonians 5:18
“Give thanks in all circumstance.”

From Judaism:
Meklita Exodus 20.20
"Be not like those who honor their gods in prosperity and curse them in adversity. In pleasure or pain, give thanks!"

(Excerpts from Judaism taken from World Scripture: A Comparative Anthology (St. Paul: Paragon House, 1995) 557

WORDS OF COMFORT

(This article was originally written in September 2001 and published elsewhere)

As a child, my mother always tried to instill in me a sense of gratitude. She always reminded me to say ‘thank you’ for every gift, deed or kind word someone gave or said to me, especially adults. “Manners,” she would say, “will take you through the world.”

Somewhere along the line though, things got all mixed up and saying ‘thank you’ became something to impress someone with my politeness or it was said without either any true passion or true feeling of gratitude.

Oprah Winfrey was one of the first ‘new thought’ thinkers, who I heard espousing the virtues of gratitude and having a gratitude journal. Later, as the idea became something of a fad, I dismissed it, as something idle rich women would indulge in to feel good about themselves.

“Not for me,” I thought. “Not for people who are struggling to make it up the @#%& corporate ladder.” I tried it anyway and after writing in my makeshift gratitude journal, an old diary I had, for about two weeks without any miracles happening in my seeming sad life, I quickly dispensed with this gratitude journalling thing.

A few years later, standing at this threshold of my life’s unfoldment, I am again meeting my old friend ‘gratitude’ – and what a relationship we have entered. Being grateful, I have learnt, does not require a doctorate, any special formula, or even a journal. It does not require being an orthodox believer or even being a radical out-of-the box thinker.

Being grateful is simply saying 'thank you' for all that comes into one’s life – challenges, joy, moments of happiness, food, a pet, the stranger who smiled at you, the astronomically high telephone bill – everything.

The secret of being grateful that has opened to me is that the more I give thanks, really meaning it and in a spirit of true appreciation, is the more I receive; and I have been receiving in ton loads. My relationships are improving and are more authentic and, by being thankful for her and letting her know that I am my teenage daughter is opening up to me more.

By being grateful for the work that I do, more meaningful job opportunities are being presented to me. More importantly, however, by being intentionally grateful I feel more love in my life and I feel more capable of loving.

What do you hope to receive today? Conversely, what have you been grateful for today? Are you busy searching the party and club scenes for the perfect partner and not giving thanks that you have good friends and companions who love you?

Maybe you are like me a few years ago, caught up in the comparison game, wondering about where you are, too busy worried about your career and your image. Or is it the stuff around your house, your ‘attainments’ that have your attention? Are they preventing you from giving thanks for your life experiences, your education and your ability to learn more?

What about the money you ‘received’ that enabled you to purchase what you already have – did you give thanks for that or were you too busy worried about not having the latest model television?

You may not be particularly fond of journalling, but get beyond the act and consciously start giving thanks. Be proactive with your gratitude! Find what works for you – if not a journal or a scrapbook then record your gratitude on cassette or compact disc.

It could even be as simple as writing your thanks on a scrap of paper at the end of each day or just say them before you close your eyes, “Thank you for everything, this day, the comfortable and the not so comfortable, through which I have learnt and grew.”

Postscript
After following a ritual, for the want of a better word, we begin to feel that we have grown enough with the passing of some time and therefore no longer need it.

Though I still write my ‘thanks you’ each morning as I rise, deep inside I knew that my attention has been on the material things that are ‘missing’ from my life.

As I prayed with that family the morning after the collision and witnessed their pain as they mourned their loved one, I realized that it would not have mattered whether my daughter’s make-up was professionally done were she the one lying on that bed.

Gratefully, I wiped the tears from my eyes and hugged the members of the family, acknowledging what they had gifted me with - the insight that what mattered is that my daughter is alive, she graduated from high school, she loves me and still wants to dance with me. Everything else is ‘brawta’.

(Those of you who are either curious enough to find out what this word means or want to test your knowledge of the Jamaican dialect can email me.)

WORDS FROM THE HEART

(Adapted from Prayer: The Master Key by James Dillet Freeman, 138 - 139)

To give thanks is to hail the wholeness of things!
To give thanks is to affirm life where we see no life and strength where we see no strength.
To give thanks is to expect supply where we feel need and joy where we feel sorrow.
To give thanks is to be at peace in the midst of conflict and to find love at the center of disorder.
To give thanks is to enter into the place of stillness in the eye of the whirlwind, and into the calm that is deeper than the waves of the sea.
To give thanks is to praise God.
To love is to praise God.
I am not everything; I am not even all I should be. But I am something.
I shall not weep because I am not more.
God is within me and I shed such light as I am able. I fall short, but I grow.
And I give thanks that I am as much as I am and that I have been used by life to the extent that life has used me.

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