by Ana Palles
A friend of mine recently helped pack the apartment of her nephew who died from a sudden heart attack in his late 30’s. It was a generous and difficult task wrapping the items that represented his life, some to give away, some to store in memory.
And yet, as she grieved for his loss, she looked around at her family in gratitude at her blessings. It is no surprise that she is planning her Thanksgiving celebration with particular care.
Her two elementary grade granddaughters are helping to set the table, carefully arranging napkins according to the instructions in the special napkin-folding book they treasure. This year, the girls are going to make little name cards for each place setting and already the assorted colored pencils, ribbons and ink stamps are being carefully scrutinized in preparation for these personalized creations.
I know that years from now, when those girls are all grown up and sitting around the Thanksgiving table, the namecards will still be holding their special places. Their grandmother would have carefully taken them out of her sideboard drawer and lain them each in their respective places, enjoying the memories carried gently in each little card.
This Thanksgiving would be special. It is precisely when we are confronted with hardship and losses that we are offered the opportunity to look at our lives with renewed eyes. Living with so much abundance, we can forget that we enjoy many blessings. These blessings have less to do with our things and everything to do with our loved ones.
Recognizing our blessings and experiencing gratitude are important parts of living a conscious and meaningful life. Long ago and far away, abundant tables were the rewards of a good harvest time. It was the substance behind our almost forgotten ritual of saying grace at meals. In countries around the world, harvest time gratitude festivals are celebrated. In China, India, Malaysia, Europe and our Canadian neighbors to the north, these celebrations focus on themes of gratitude, harmony and community.
It has been only been in the last hundred years or so that we have been able to tap growing seasons around the world for fresh vegetables and fruits year round. And how fortunate are we that medical science has advanced so far that we enjoy longer lives, with better health, and a greatly improved quality of life.
And this is why it is important to remind ourselves, and our children, that we haven’t always enjoyed such a comfortable life. This is what makes it all the more important for us to remember our blessings and gifts. To remember that life is good and we are blessed.
Our ancestors understood the importance of celebration and gratitude. They were good observers of the world around them, and realized that the gifts in their lives were special and not to be taken for granted.
They had blessings for every situation. They were thankful for the sunny days, and the rainy ones. They were thankful for the breeze that cleansed the land, and thankful for the running streams that brought fertility and life. They were thankful for their friendships, and in places and times where life was frail, it was often those friendships that meant the difference between life and death.
Generations have relied on healing wisdom passed from family to family, from grandmothers to children.
Seeing and celebrating the many ways we are blessed, and taking little for granted, is a beautiful and satisfying way to live a life. We remember how to see the world once again through the eyes of a child, examining those very details that restore and refresh our hearts with wonder and awe. We stop to notice the perfection of a nautilus shell, the delicacy of a butterfly and the light of love shining at us from within our loved one’s eyes.
Thanksgivings are not the only time of year that we stop to remember how blessed we are, but it is a good time to join with others in our community in acknowledging the treasures we each have in our day to day life.
This year, plan to spend some time in quiet reflection of your many blessings. Remember your loved ones and give thanks. Truly see how abundant life is, and send your heartfelt thanks. Practice putting aside for a just a few minutes the daily irritations we carry – they will be there if we want to pick them up again. But just for a few minutes, consciously bless your homes, families and friends. You will find that it really makes a difference.
The word Blessing evokes a sense of warmth and protection. It suggests that no life is alone or unreachable. Each life is clothed in a raiment of spirit that secretly links it to everything else. Though suffering and chaos befall us, they can never quench this inner light of providence …
It would be lovely if we could rediscover our power to bless each other. I believe that each of us can bless. When a blessing is invoked, it changes the atmosphere. Some of the plenitude flows into our hearts from the invisible neighborhood of loving conscience… (John O’Donohue To Bless the Space Between Us)