Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others. -Cicero

Unfortunately, Thanksgiving week starts the full-court-press Christmas sales drive. I try hard to ignore all of the “black Friday” cacophony. In fact, sometimes I put my fingers in my ears (honestly) and sing lalalalala (“Mom, what are you doing?”) during commercials to avoid the horrid hoopla. It is out of control and I wish it would just go away! See? Even describing how I avoid the Christmas sales rush stresses me out. Not good…

So back to Thanksgiving (pulse is slowing). In spite of the commercialism of Christmas, I love Thanksgiving (what an odd sentence, but I know you understand it). It is by far my favorite holiday.

In my family we usually eat potluck style. This way, one of our beloved won’t crack up getting everything prepared and everyone joining in with their own dish has a sense of ownership for the meal.

We dig in, eating spoonfuls of scrumptious flavors, textures and drink. It is so good that there is almost a collective hummmmm emanating from the table (and a distinct grunt as we stand to move from the table when done). Conversation during most of the meal revolves around the food, “Pauline, your sweet potatoes (lips licked) are delicious.” “Thanks, Aunt Anna, I don’t think I’ve ever had mashed potatoes quite as rich as yours (sigh).” Indeed, life is good.

As a group we understand our fortune to have this good life. Our prayer before the meal speaks of gratitude; our conversations revolve around thankfulness; our blessings are counted. Thanksgiving is a reminder and enforcer of this most beautiful of human traits: gratitude. If I have lost my way throughout the year (and I always do), this is the day that reinvigorates my journey toward a gratitude-filled life.

Tiny illustration:

Last night Steve left to run errands and I expected him back at about 9:00. At 10:30 I called him, and he was out with a buddy eating pizza and having a beer. I was ticked off that he didn’t call to let me know his plans had changed (this is disrespectful and not nice, damnit!). I stewed until he got home and pouted when he arrived. He apologized and ignored my pout. I slept on it, and in the morning remembered my commitment (it had only been 5 days since the “reinvigoration”!). So I threw out the pout, yes, I did, and meditated on the good. I really did appreciated his sincere apology (“Honey, shoot, I’m really sorry…I just got caught up here. I should have called. I’ll be leaving in 15 minutes”), I was pleased that he came home so soon and, as always, grateful he made it home to me safe and sound.

This is a small thing. But the grudges formed from annoyance, let down, unmet expectations can grow into marriage breakers. I believe that our pettiness might slowly dissipate if we hang out in a space of thankfulness. What a triumph for marriage that would be!

The more we live with gratitude, feel it, and express it, the better person we become. This is sometimes difficult for me because of other, not so honorable, human traits (sometimes I even revel in these other traits!). In some situations being grateful doesn’t even cross my mind, or if it does, it is righteously stomped on (I have a right to this anger!).

But still, my aim is to live each day with gratitude. And the thing is, when I am successful, my family thrives, and I am a happy woman.

“Wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving.” - Kahlil Gibran