Reasons for Gratitude
[ grat-i-tood, -tyood ]
the quality or feeling of being grateful or thankful
I have a confession to make.
I am tired. Worn to the bone tired. The kind of tired that even if wasn't waking up every morning at 4AM with my head spinning and could sleep in, I don't think it would make a dent right now. You likely know what I mean - that kind of tired where you are frayed, to the point where the comments and reactions that you typically brush off end up scraping at your last nerve. Yeah, that kind of tired.
In recent years, I would likely be looking for forward to a trip in advance of the holidays. Perhaps a weekend in the Outer Banks, a trip to see family, or my personal favorite, a four day getaway to Negril with just my wife. It has become our "go to" destination - the welcoming culture, the laid back rhythm of the Jamaican people and its music. Fresh lobster grilled beach side and the most beautiful sunsets in the world. Maybe even a random tour of dive bars on a broken down school bus with strangers singing "Sweet Caroline" at the top of my lungs (true story). The type of getaway that feeds the soul, provides inspiration, and recharges the batteries. Welp, not this year.
My many reasons for gratitude.
I have another confession to make. As tired as I am, and as much as I need a mental, emotional and physical break from all that is swirling around us...I feel a sense of guilt for even putting in words how drained I am because I know at the same time, I have much to be grateful for. I have a family who is loving, supportive, and healthy. I have a job that is not only reasonably secure, it offers a sense of purpose and pride, giving back to a community that works harder and deserves more than I do. I have the privilege of working with a team whose talent and passion is immeasurable, while serving a patron base that is the most deserving in the world.
Some evenings, I will sit on the back patio and just watch the sunset. Some mornings, while I am getting ready for work, my wife will alter me that the sunrise is worth checking out, as she did a couple of days ago. I took the picture above before heading to the office. When I looked at it later, it framed many more reasons for gratitude. The sunrise to me is always the beauty of the morning, the promise of the new day ahead. Look deeper. Notice the driftwood - we are fortunate to live near the ocean. The Japanese red maple tree - I am fortunate to have traveled to all fifty states and over fifty countries and found something to love about each one. The front porch of a home that we love, the American flag proudly flying, representing a country that despite our flaws, holds deep promise.
Gratitude from a global perspective.
Robert Emmons, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis and the founding editor-in-chief of The Journal of Positive Psychology, believes that gratitude has two key components. The first is an affirmation of goodness, of the good things in the world and the benefits that we have received. The second is the recognition of the goodness that surrounds you, the people and situations that you are fortunate to have in your life. This second one is critical. As Americans, we tend to be very individualistic, what is happening to me, what do I have compared to others around me that I can be thankful for. A generalization, yes, but one that has been researched and documented. In other cultures, gratitude is found more in what surrounds you, and how one recognizes and shares gratitude through a sense of appreciation. The Japanese have a word for gratitude, kansha, a noun that means "appreciation" and the two kanji symbols that represent the word, 感謝, literally mean "a sense of appreciation."
I've just started The Resilience Project by Hugh van Cuylenburg, a study of finding happiness through empathy, mindfulness, and gratitude. He was a volunteer primary school teacher in northern India, serving an under-priviledged community and yet, the children and families were remarkably positive despite their surroundings. He discovered that in many cultures, people put greater emphasis not on what they have, but rather through honoring others, what is sometimes called "connective gratitude." The act of paying kindness back to others as a show of gratitude. Several studies have found that the more respect that is paid to others, the more grateful and happier a person is despite their surroundings.
The Thanksgiving Holiday
We have this ingrained vision of what the first Thanksgiving was, but the reality is somewhat different. It wasn't in November over turkey and corn bread stuffing, but rather in October of 1621, when 90 native Wampanoug joined 53 pilgrims for a feast that stretched over three days. The indigenous people had taught the immigrants how to catch eels and grow squash and corn. When a pilgrim hunting party had shot a number of waterfowl for the gathering, the Wampanoug chief Massasoit discovered that there would not be enough food, so he dispatched his own hunters who returned with five deer for the feast.
While this was the first documented gathering of Pilgrims and Indigenous people with the purpose of celebration, the concept of thanksgiving was not new for either culture. Thanking their creator for worldly gifts was part of Wampanoag daily life, showing appreciation for a bountiful harvest and those who gathered food. In the English culture, a prayer of "thanksgiving" was offered before and after every meal and respect paid to those who provided it. This is repeated today in many cultures around the world. As an example, in Japan, meals traditionally being with a single word, itadakimasu which translates to "I humbly receive this meal" but the intention is to thank everyone around from those who prepared the meal to the hunters, farmers and fisherman that made it possible.
A season of giving thanks, a season like no other.
My team coined the slogan, "a holiday season like no other". Isn't that the truth. While there is great anxiety and even anguish over the upcoming election and the uncertain path of the pandemic, it is also a season of giving thanks. To our nation's veterans for their commitment to serving others and keeping us safe. With family and friends during the Thanksgiving holiday, showing appreciation for what we have and those who surround us with love. The environment may require us to be socially distant, to celebrate "together" though virtually rather than physically. Though while the thought of this may seem challenging, and feel like we are sacrificing, this is nothing new for our military community who often have to celebrate holidays not on THE date, but rather on any day when they can be together. Or, many need to celebrate apart, as deployments are part of everyday life. Which brings me full circle.
Yes, I am tired. Worn to the bone tired. But at the same time, incredibly thankful and grateful, not just for what I have but for what and who surrounds me. What I have had the opportunity to do and see and those who I have had the fortune of meeting along the way. For family and friends, coworkers and peers, and those who I have never met but keep us safe, protected. While this is most definitely a "season like no other", it is an opportunity to take stock in our blessings and practice "kansha", offering appreciation to those around us. Over the month of November, my goal is to find less reasons to feel discouraged, and more reasons to feel grateful and show my gratitude.
And if you have never experienced a sunset in Negril.....my hope is that one day you do!
(You can follow me @rhoniball and connect with me at www.honiball.me. The opinions expressed are my own, and subject to change, but I will admit that they are highly influenced by my wife, daughter, and several others....)