Tuesday, November 24, 2009

"In all circumstances give thanks"

As we approach Thanksgiving Day, I ask bloggers to post up to three things for which you are thankful. I am thankful for the Eucharist, for being assigned to GW, and for my family.

The following is from my post last year after Thanksgiving. It expands on a point I made in my homily from this past weekend about how gratitude leads to health and happiness. I hope you all have a safe and happy Thanksgiving!!

The retreat master of my Fall retreat, Msgr. Steve Rossetti, gave a talk entitled, “Becoming a Eucharistic People”. He focused on the many benefits of giving thanks regularly. The overall point was that gratitude leads to joy and happiness. We should give thanks EVERY DAY for the sake of gratitude, but also because it brings us more health and happiness. Msgr. Rossetti offered evidence to the latter point, referring to results of a Gratitude Study done years ago that was published in the Journal of Personality & Social Psychology (2002):

- daily gratitude exercises resulted in higher reported levels of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, and energy

- gratitude group (those who gave thanks regularly) exercised more regularly, had fewer physical symptoms, and quality and duration of sleep was better

- gratitude group experienced less depression and stress (!). They experienced higher levels of optimism & life satisfaction without denying negative aspects of life

- gratitude group were more likely to feel loved and to help others, i.e., helped someone with a personal problem or offered emotional support

- gratitude group more empathic and rated as more generous and helpful by others

- grateful people were less envious of others

- they were less materialistic and more religious or spiritual (attend services or engage in religious activities)

“I think it is impossible for anyone to be simultaneously grateful and unhappy. So the solution to much of the unhappiness that humans experience is a reawakening in the human heart of the idea of gratitude. That's why I think it is a great idea for non-believers to celebrate Thanksgiving. Let anyone start expressing and experiencing gratitude--if not vertically toward God, at least horizontally toward others in the human community--and you'll find that person holding a new lease on happiness.” - Rev. William J. Bryon, S.J.

In all circumstances give thanks” (1 Thess 5:16-18)

Eucharistia: Greek – thanksgiving

“If the only prayer you say in your whole life is ‘thank you,’ it will suffice”. – Meister Eckhard


CynthiaBC said...

A couple of weeks ago, the clarinet quartet in which I play performed at St Elizabeth’s Hospital in DC. The patients on the units we visited are indigent mentally ill – their families are unable or unwilling to take care of them, and other facilities are reluctant to accept them. During our visit, one of the other musicians pointed out a “Be Thankful” hanging.

Him: What the hell do these people have to be thankful for?
Me: Well…they have a roof over their heads instead of being out on the street.
Him: THAT’s a stretch.

I suppose sometimes it CAN be a stretch to come up with reasons to be thankful. But, despite my mother’s recent illness and death I am able to come up with a few things.

My mother was in my life until I was 44. Mom was present when I earned my master’s degree, when I was married and when my daughter was born. Many lose a parent much earlier in life. My husband was only 10 when his father died.

My daughter had an opportunity to know my mother. She also has a relationship with my father and stepmother, and my husband’s mother and stepfather. I had a relationship with only one of my grandparents, for one died before I was born, another died when I was a toddler, and another lived halfway across the country (a longer drive than my father could tolerate squabbling children in the back seat. For the record, my younger sister started it!) The last thing I heard Mom say that made any sense was when she told my daughter that she was her favorite granddaughter. (Mom was showing humor even at the very end, for my sister has two boys.)

I’ve developed a new appreciation for the everyday activity of eating. I joined Weight Watchers in April and have since lost 35 pounds by being more conscious about what and how much I eat. My poor Mom, because of the tumor in her esophagus, the last eight weeks of her life couldn’t eat or drink anything at all.

When I cleared out Mom’s pantry, I could have taken the stuff to my own kitchen. Instead, I took everything to church. I suppose some of the families we help will be getting salsa in their Thanksgiving food baskets. Mom had lots of salsa.

Anonymous said...

They could certainly be worse off, but you can say that about anyone. The truth is that God, if he acts at all in our lives, picks and chooses. Why do some people have so much and others far less? It's random.

Anonymous said...

"Why do some people have so much and others far less?"

Wouldn't it be a great world if others considered how much they have when they see others who don't have as much? Wouldn't it be a spectacular world is people acted upon that observation?

Advent is a great time to challenge ourselves to think about what we can do without so that others may have. In some parts of the world it costs the same as about 3 bottles of soda from a vending machine to vaccinate a child against a potentially lethal disease. Think about it- three Cokes/the life of a child. Gratitude should lead to giving, and giving doesn't have to be hard- only thoughtful.