Gratitude…Even in 2020
By Rita Thoemke
Thanksgiving is upon us, coming at the tail end of a year that has challenged and changed us in ways we never thought possible. Without a doubt, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I love the idea of a day set aside to do nothing but be with loved ones and be grateful. It is an easy day with no expectations. The challenge is taking this spirit of gratitude and weaving it into daily life. It takes conscious effort. Almost like exercise, the more I practice it, the better I feel.
When I was very young, my mom made up a bedtime prayer that I still say. It was a simple prayer of thanks for every family member. “Thank you for Mom and Dad, Tommy and Laura, Brian and Rita. Thank you for Grandma and Grandpa S. and Grandpa H.” As the years went by, the family dog was added. Then friends, neighbors, in-laws, coworkers. My mom had taught me to take a nightly inventory of everyone and everything I am thankful for.
I have learned that the magic really happens when you express your thankfulness. I stumbled upon this as a young child. My bike had a flat tire that my dad took time to patch. Before riding off on my bike, I thanked my dad for fixing the tire. I thought nothing of it. Later that night before bed, my dad told me nobody had ever thanked him for fixing their bike before. He very honestly told me how good that made him feel to know I appreciated him.
Hearing somebody express appreciation for us can be transforming. “Thank you for putting your toys away, Leah. That really helps me out.” “Thank you for helping your sister rake the leaves. I know you would rather have been doing something fun.” “Thank you for putting the dishes away. What a wonderful surprise!” It feels so good to be appreciated.
I don’t enjoy cooking on a nightly basis. When I cook dinner for the family, my husband always thanks me for a good meal. On the flip side, when he brings take-out home, I thank him and let him know how much I appreciate it. I believe that most of us hold many thoughts of thanks in our hearts all the time. Expressing them can bring unexpected results. One day I found myself thinking about my best friend. I picked my phone up and sent her a quick text telling her I was thankful for her friendship. My phone rang a few seconds later and it was her, tearfully saying how much my text message meant to her. Lesson learned – never hesitate to tell people how thankful you are for them.
Modeling gratitude for our kids can help them be resilient when they experience life’s challenges. The more they hear us say things like, “Getting a flat tire stinks, but I sure am happy it didn’t happen on the freeway,” or “It’s sad we can’t see our friends right now, but family movie nights make me so happy,” they will learn to look for and find the silver linings in unfortunate situations.
I was young when my Grandfather died. He was my first experience with loss. I remember wondering if I should still be including him in my nightly prayer, since he was no longer with us. I asked my sister one night about it. She replied by asking me if I was still thankful for him. Of course I was. That might have been my first lesson that we can still be grateful in the midst of pain and loss. I was sad that I lost my Grandpa, but my goodness, were we ever lucky to have him.
Gratitude might just be the antidote for all that causes suffering. Michael J. Fox said, “Part of gratitude is acceptance. Accept the situation, put it in its proper place, and then you can see how much of the rest of your life you have to thrive in.” If we can accept that 2020 brought us some unexpected challenges and anxiety, we can turn our attention to all the wonderful things that happened this year as well. I have a long list of things I was fortunate to experience in 2020. The friendships, love, and support I continue to find at All Seasons is most definitely on that list.