Remembering the Spirit of Thankfulness by Melissa Swedoski

It’s easy sometimes to forget the little things, that’s a given. We get hurried and rushed around and forget to be grateful for simple things like running water, hot water, clean water. Or things like picking up a gallon of milk just because we want to, not because it’s our one time this month we are allowed to buy it. Or just be grateful for having friends or family.

But the little things add up to big things. If every pipe in your yard bursts in the same week, that’s a big thing. If you don’t have the $3 required to buy a gallon of milk, or you have to choose whether to spend that $3 on prescriptions rather than food, that’s a big thing. If your friends all live hundreds of miles away from you, or the most significant member of your family is terminally ill and won’t be home for the holiday, that’s a big thing.

It’s so important to be grateful for the little things, it’s true. But it’s also so important to remember that there are many, many, many who are battling the big things. Those of us who have been blessed with material possessions beyond measure (yes, I’m looking at myself in the mirror), sometimes think that we are suffering because we can’t buy a new dishwasher, simply because we’d rather have a shiny stainless steel one. We forget that not having enough time to make it to the bakery today because we had so many other errands to run isn’t a hardship. Not being able to afford enough food for every member of our family is the real hardship.

Remembering the Spirit of ThankfulnessMy point is not to make you feel guilty or shame you or even make you go out and sell off your worldly possessions. I’m simply making the point – as much to myself as to anyone reading – that those of us with the good fortune to have more wants than needs should remember the difference.

We finished shopping for our children’s Christmas presents last week, and my husband and I had agreed to cut back this year, both for budget reasons but also because our children have enough. They are only toddlers and don’t realize what they have versus what others do or don’t , but we need to think about setting the example. I want to prepare our children for the day that the real gift in life is giving back to others, that service to strangers is the most wonderful present you could ever give or receive.

I hope you are having a wonderful holiday season, and I hope that you have the good fortune of being with family and friends this week, and not in a hospital room listening to monitors and wondering what the fate of the person lying there will be. I hope that you can fuss and fight over the football game rather than trying to find a way to keep the heat going for one more day.

“Do not indulge in dreams of having what you have not, but reckon up the chief of the blessings you do possess, and then thankfully remember how you would crave for them if they were not yours.”
Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

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