Thursday, November 24, 2022

The healing power of gratitude and Thanksgiving.... #GiveThanks

We get to be with three of the six kids today for Thanksgiving...
 

Looking for the light in the shadows of our blessings...
                   
Balboa Island... Once upon a time, a young Wyoming boy asked a San Diego girl to a family reunion here. I said yes, even though he was a friend. He was majoring in chemistry and loved to climb mountains. I was a tennis-playing English major who loved to swim on the beach and eat Mexican food. I saw his family, who like my own family, loved one another and decided to become part of the clan. I feel blessed that almost 40 years ago on a Thanksgiving weekend I said yes to marrying him. 


We can all give thanks for the beauties of the earth and the majesty of the heavens that give us an inkling of the vastness of eternity.

We can give thanks for the gift of life, for our amazing bodies and minds, that allow us to grow and learn.

We can give thanks for art, literature, and music that nurture our souls.

We can give thanks for the opportunity to repent, start over, make amends and build character.

We can give thanks to our families, friends, and loved ones.

We can give thanks for the opportunity to help, cherish and serve one another, which makes life so much more meaningful.

We can even give thanks for our trials; from which we learn things we would not know otherwise.

Most of all, we can give thanks unto God, the Father of our spirits, which makes us all brothers and sisters — one great global family. --Russell M. Nelson

Some statues of David and Libby Maidenburg on a bench overlooking the harbor at Balboa Island. This is what it says on the bench to everyone who walks by, "Married for 63 years, never went to bed angry. We love and miss you, from 3 your children, 8 grandchildren, and 6 great-grandchildren."


One of my good friends, Minka, replies each time someone asks how she is doing, "I am grateful." Afterward, she might reveal a challenge she is going through, but her first emotional response is gratitude. She has lived through the dangers of a civil war in Nigeria. Later, she raised three successful boys as a single mom. As a highly educated African engineer, she has experienced prejudice and betrayal as she has lived in several countries. A few years ago she beat her dismal cancer diagnosis. Indeed, there have been tough times, but she always says, "I am grateful." She reminds me, not even on Thanksgiving, to be grateful.

This is the first Thanksgiving I have been in my own country since we were ex-pats for nine years. My heart is a little more tender and mellow as I reflect upon my blessings this season. For the past almost four months I have had the unique time to travel in America to see those family members and friends who we could not see for a long time--due to not being able to leave China. We have missed the weddings of children, and the birth of our first grandchild. There have been delays, deaths, illness, and overcoming some despair--just like everyone else in this world. Yet, underlying it all, I have been eased and comforted by remembering layers of a life of blessings. Seeing recently familiar landscapes and houses or being with loved ones has humbly reminded me that I have been a very blessed passenger on this journey of life. I never was really alone, after all. 

The gentle strokes of light of a sunset on a painting, each one, have made a beautiful landscape if I choose to appreciate it. Sometimes, I admit, I do not always see the light or full panoramic perspective. After all, to see the gleaming brightness, we must view the contrast between dark and light, and experience the tension to understand the light when it comes. Yet, in six decades of living, remembering, and acknowledging blessings, I have learned: gratitude fills our souls with light-filled healing. New hope is born when we see the good and are grateful. Peace and comfort grow, as we grant ourselves and others gratitude. Being grateful elevates our joy--even when we accept the shadows. 

 In a 2015 NYT article before his death of cancer, author and neurologist Oliver Sacks powerfully wrote about the gift of gratitude at the end of his life, "I cannot pretend I am without fear. But my predominant feeling is one of gratitude. I have loved and I have given something in return." To me, that is a beautiful life--one that has known and acknowledged blessings.

In our world of FOMO or (Fear of Missing Out), I don't want to not be aware of a lifetime of blessings, the people who cheered and loved me, and a God who accepts and gives me gifts I am sometimes blind to. I have learned the happiest people are grateful--not a chirpy, superficial optimism, but a person who knows how to obtain wisdom and peace almost anytime they desire. How? They remember to count their blessings, write a thank you card, call or tell a person thank you, and take the time to ponder stacked blessings in the closet. Whatever faith we espouse, we know more peace when we express our thanks to a God who is always giving blessings--even when we are oblivious. 

Happy Thanksgiving one and all wherever you live in this world. 


  

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