Wednesday, November 25, 2015

On Gratitude

The holiday of Thanksgiving has taken on different connotations over the years, anything from an annual family reunion to an excuse to over-eat to "that day before Black Friday." However, at its core, Thanksgiving is a four-day weekend dedicated to gratitude.

On the whole, it's not in human nature to feel gratitude on a regular basis. (I am not referring to feelings towards helpful individuals or in case of a particularly lucky turn of events, but a diffuse sense of "I have it pretty good. Thank you, world, for treating me well.") It makes sense, in terms of our survival needs, to focus on the problems, on what is lacking. When afflicted with a toothache, we don't feel happy for having a healthy heart--we run to the dentist. When the roof is leaking, we don't appreciate that fact that at least we are not homeless--we concentrate on getting it fixed. All proper reactions, of course, but as we run from one problem to the next, do we tend to acquire the sense that it's ALL that life is about?

At best, the sense of permanent dissatisfaction drives us to achievement, self-improvement and, occasionally, greatness. Too often, though, we forget to focus on what is not broken, on parts of our world that did work out just right, on little moments of joy and grace. And in failing to recognize the good stuff, we become the poorer for it.

Fortunately, we do get this special weekend in November. To slow down, to look at what we do have, to spend time with loved ones and yes, even remember the good times we've had with those lost to us. Life's little (and not-so-little) problems will still be there on Monday. These few days are ours to enjoy. Let's make the best of the opportunity.