Yesterday afternoon I was running errands in the village, and saw the shop display pictured below, with the single word “thankful” in large letters stretched across the width of the window.
It had been a long day, the most stressful part of which had been giving notice to my current job that I will be leaving for a new job in two weeks. [N.B.: I don’t discuss my professional life on social media, but suffice to say I’m staying in the law.] This has been a long time coming, but my departure has some elements of mixed feelings surrounding it. I’m thankful for the opportunities I have had, but I’m also thankful for the opportunities I’m about to have, in order to grow professionally and personally.
Although many things still need to be worked out, since my life is far from perfect, it struck me when looking at that store display that even in the trying times, the difficult moments when you think everything is absolutely terrible, there is still much to be thankful for. Sure, thankfulness often comes from something terrific, like landing a new job, beating an illness, or achieving a personal goal. Those things are pretty obvious causes for thankfulness and indeed celebration. Yet so often in our focus on the big things, we overlook being thankful for absolutely all of the things, great and small, that make up life around us.
Of course, there’s a perfectly sound reason why we don’t stop to analyze every single good thing that we have to be thankful for as we go through our day. If we had to reflect all the time on those things we take for granted, yet for which we should be thankful – clean drinking water, a good newspaper, an affectionate pet – we would achieve nothing. Appreciating and expressing gratitude for the smell of wet autumn leaves alone, for example, would take ages.
With the upcoming American celebration of Thanksgiving, marked by the store window display I spotted, the notion of being thankful begs the question, “Thankful to whom?” A cold and meaningless universe, where the existence of life is but a fluke? A senseless commingling of chemical bonds with no purpose? A bunch of dead, fundamentalist Protestants who got kicked out of England centuries ago, like everyone else who didn’t conform? The Pillsbury Dough Boy?
Well, okay, we can be thankful to him for crescent rolls at Thanksgiving, but you see my point. In perceiving that there are lovely, good things around you, part of the gift of life you have been given, you quickly come to realize that you are overwhelmed on a daily basis with blessings for which to be thankful. In doing so, you come to realize the complete dependence of the created upon the Creator, for every moment life continues, even in its most difficult passages.
Thanksgiving is not Christmas, and there is no Advent season to prepare for it. Nevertheless, perhaps a good idea for this particular holiday would be to come to Thanksgiving Day with a prayer of actual thanksgiving already written on your heart, for the many blessings you do have. Do so because you have already taken the time, even if only once a day, to count just some of them. And let us then, indeed, be truly thankful.