Be thankful — for the little things and the love that is to come.
“One regret dear world, that I am determined not to have when I am lying on my deathbed is that I did not kiss you enough.” ~ Hafiz
This is the month we remember the notion of gratitude in the U.S. Thanksgiving rolls around and we count our blessings.
We pile food on the table: steaming platters of turkey and ham, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, cranberries, macaroni and cheese, dinner rolls, gravy and all the fixins’. We top off this largess with ample helpings of pie, usually pumpkin or pecan, but any pie will do. Then after we’ve stuffed our gobs, we sit comatose in front of the television, or we run to the mall and attempt to trample one another to get a new gadget or a free door prize. Sound familiar?
Yet, if I dare watch the news online, it often feels like a punch in the gut. Especially in light of news of anyone who has experienced disaster (and this year, there are plenty). In the aftermath of a hurricane or twister or earthquake, we sift through the wreckage and detritus of our homes.
And when we do, what do we look for?
Loved ones. Baby pictures. Beloved pets.
“We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.” ~ Thornton Wilder
Last year around this time, east coast residents in New York and New Jersey were slammed by Hurricane Sandy. Afterward, they posted photos of their dogs and cats and birds and bunnies on Facebook. They called animal control and animal rescues and animal foster care looking for that one particular beagle or blue parrot or Manx cat. “Her name is Brownie,” they wrote. “We miss her terribly.”
This week we are back in that same uncomfortable, terrifying place. Whole cities in the Philippines have been wiped out by Typhoon Yolanda. It was the most severe storm to ever make landfall, packing high winds up to 235 miles per hour.
What’s left when nothing’s left?
A packet of love letters that wash ashore. 50 of them, tied with pink ribbon. A cracked tea cup painted with delicate daisies we inherited from our grandmother. Our mother’s wedding photo.
These are the things that matter.
Small things. Our families. Our companion animals. The plaque we won in first grade. Our last pair of baby shoes.
The final birthday card our father gave us.
The birthday card my father wrote me a couple of days before he died, still sits on my Buddhist altar. My brother found it next to the bed where Daddy died. When we went to collect his things from the house where he’d been living, we discovered a card for me and one for my younger brother.
Daddy had very little at the end of his life. A bathrobe. A rice cooker. A few hats and jackets and sports shirts. His car.
What mattered to me?
The smell of him that lingered on a hat he wore.
The card he wrote for my 43rd birthday that he never lived to give me.
I realize that much of what I own no longer owns me. It may be time to do a purge, giving away whatever I don’t use.
If it is not beautiful or useful or meaningful, why keep it?
“At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.” ~ Albert Schweitzer
So, I am thankful for the reminder about what is actually important in this life.
Friendship. Love. Conversation.
I am thankful for a warm house, for my health, for my animals, and my job. I am thankful that I have enough to eat. I am thankful for the lullaby of birdsong filling my yard. I am thankful I’ve made good choices in life, choices that have not cost me my self esteem or my soul. I am thankful for solitude and joy and my writing, which offers me a place to put things, so my heart doesn’t spill over or burst.
I am thankful for the love that is coming; for the person who already knows my name, even though we haven’t met. Yet.
“Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn’t learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn’t learn a little, at least we didn’t get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn’t die; so, let us all be thankful.” ~ Buddha
Thankful. Thankful. Thankful.
Today that’s enough.