It’s so easy to overlook all the blessings in our life and to focus on the little things that seem to go wrong. Life doesn’t always happen the way we plan, but that’s fine. That’s “life,” after all. A roof over my head, amazing family and friends surrounding me, my good health, simply being ALIVE today, this very minute—all such blessings can be neglected and taken for granted if we don’t step back to recognize all that we already have. These small, little things are GREAT gifts from God, and we’re privileged to have them. We shouldn’t just recognize our blessings on a couple of pre-designated times each year, whenever the Hallmark Channel reminds us, but all the times of the year, every day, every morning we’re blessed with another breath of life, another sunrise and sunset, another day of opportunities in the presence of our loved ones.
Of course, not any of us are perfect, not one of us is a saint. We all complain and try to justify our carping. Even this morning, I caught myself moaning about having to parking wayyy in the back lot of school, in secret jealousy of all the handicapped folks with the spots upfront. Really?! I can hardly explain how ridiculous this sounds, and I’m even embarrassed typing this for the whole world to see. But here I am, calling myself out. For I know that recognition is always the first step to reform and to molding and fostering the best version of yourself. So let us all, myself included, step back for a moment, gain some perspective, and try to cultivate a better “attitude of gratitude,” especially for the many ways God has shaped and blessed our lives.
“The secret of happiness is to live moment by moment and to thank God for what He is sending us every day in His goodness.” – St. Gianna Beretta Molla
I am very future orientated, planning is my jam. I get caught up in thinking about the future–what I am going to do, to strive for, to save for, or even buy. Even just the irony of Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, where my mind is consumed by thoughts of buying still more things, can become toxic.
But when I take a moment, a calm and calculated moment, away from the all the noise of the technology that seems to envelope our every minute, to really focus on my life, where I am, where I’m going, what I have already, what I’ve already accomplished, when I do this the blessings of the present seem to fall into focus, blurred neither by the past and its failures and disappointments or by the anxieties or excitement over what tomorrow may hold. It’s just a rewarding realization and recognition of the present, which I find myself embracing with a heartfelt spirit of thanksgiving. It’s not easy to cultivate these special, quiet times, but they’re precious moments of reflection that breed genuine thanksgiving.
“Remember the past with gratitude. Live the present with enthusiasm. Look forward to the future with confidence.” –St. John Paul II
Finally, gratitude breeds generosity, and generosity breeds joy. Generosity can further help us check the daily rat-race of goal-reaching, acquisition, and material accomplishments, encouraging us to remember the genuine happiness gained by giving. So if reflection breeds recognition, and recognition breeds reform, then with the cultivation of a better self comes a deeper appreciation for what we have and the joy that comes from giving and sharing and brining a smile to someone’s day.
So Happy Thanksgiving! Enjoy that cornucopia of dishes and delights, and then hit the stores and the websites with reckless abandon this Black Friday. Indulgence isn’t a bad thing. But save a moment as well, a sincere and special moment, to give real thanks, truly give thanks, for all the many ways you’ve been blessed, thanking God for being God.
Photos by Lisa Fergus