Today, all across our country, people will pause in their pursuit of More, and give thanks for what they Have. It’s beautiful, this rare bird of gratitude. It is what keeps us going through the holidays, when we are surrounded by our favorite people, and those with whom we feel less than fortunate to share matching strands of DNA. Gratitude is the sun that warms our hearts as we drive on through the sloggy gray of winter’s bitter winds, surrounded on both sides by dirty snow berms. Those aren’t here yet, but they’re coming. And gratitude is one of the only insurance policies against them.
Year after year, I find that taking one whole day to give thanks, is the antidote I need. It saves me from the poison of always wanting more, frees me from online shopping for another gilded cage.
In our family, we take this day seriously. We spend hours coming up with our individual lists. We discuss at length the things we are most grateful for. We are almost militant in our mindfulness, marching towards the promised land of softened hearts and seeing eyes. My husband and I act as Sherpas, guiding our children away from the perilous cliffs of insatiable wants, over the crags of covetousness, and back towards the safety of Enough. This is where the wildflowers bloom. This is where the magic happens. And it does happen, every time.
So, before today’s canvas is covered even a bit by wrangling my tiny humans, or prepping once a year dishes, or decorating the table we will all sit around as we bow our heads in humility, I will leave part of my list here. Just the top five, because there is so much more, and if I attempt to list them all here, I will sound so ridiculous that none of my friends who read this will ever let me vent to them again. Which, actually, might not be the worst thing.
(Part of) What I am most thankful for, in mostly random order:
- My People. I swear to you that I am surrounded by the best people this world has to offer. People who do, and love, who live lives of beauty and sacrifice, who have the courage to keep their hands outstretched as they give. The people I know risk daily in order to create a place worth fighting for. They shelter the broken, feed the poor, create art that makes my soul sigh in agreement, and know the power of keeping their word. They dream and create, and make this world a better place, but they aren’t too proud to get out the dustpan and help sweep the dross away. (Why do I always end up rhyming? I don’t mean to, I promise. Well, onward, anyway.)
- My Husband. I have a man that actually loves me. The real me, in all of its ugly, in all of its glory. My husband works hard, is a great provider, and trusts me. He loves me equally with and without makeup, whether I go to the gym, or my hips wear the telltale signs of too many donuts. He loves me. Me! And still rushes to show me, in the most endearing little boy/best friend way, the songs that he writes, and gets nervous as he positions his guitar and begins to play them. Be still, my heart. Be still.
- My Children. My Fabulous Five. The endgame to my selfishness, and the symphonic finale to my pride. I don’t know how on earth I was entrusted with these perfect little humans. But somehow, through some cosmic grace loophole, they are mine. My boy, so quickly becoming a young man. He, who broke the mold on my too small Grinch-like heart, making room for him, and the sisters who came afterward. My four girls. My compass of little women, my north, south, east, and west, of charm. They fill my life with goodness, and balance all the black in my wardrobe with vibrant pink and purple everything. These five people, are everything worth knowing about me. They hold all of my hopes, all of my tryings, and my very best dreams. They are the people I most believe in. I am humbled by being chosen to raise them.
- My family. Or families, I mean, as I have the one I was born into, and the ones I have been welcomed into along the way. I have no shortage of sisters, of brothers, of fathers, and mothers. My children have more aunts and uncles than they can keep count. With one phone call, I can conjure the past. With one visit, I can have peace about the future. It is a gift, this wide web of people who believe in me, who see me, and don’t look away. People who trust me with their family recipes, and who let me be a part of their history.
- My Friends. The net under all of my tight wires. The holders of my secrets, and trembling hands. The ones who suit up in armor, and fight for me daily. They are veterans of a foreign war, a land they didn’t have to defend, and yet, they did. My friends are what allow my lungs to remain open, so that I can breathe again. They are the girls nights, and game nights, the painting, the wine, they are the shopping trips whether I need something, or just to fill a void. They are the adult slumber party that lets me giggle through the night. My friends are my counselors, my confidantes, and the tethers that keeps me from drifting too far to the left or to the right.
It’s funny, you know. As I was writing that, that none of the things that I spend so much time buying and striving for, came out first. No material possessions even made the list. And maybe that’s what I needed to remember today. Maybe that’s what we all need to remember. That it is people who most matter. People, and their hearts.
Wherever you are today, and with whomever you go, I hope you see how blessed you are. I hope you are filled to the brim with gratitude. That you feel hope, the cousin of thankfulness, fill your soul, even fuller than you fill your plate. And I hope you know, that I am so, so very thankful for you. Yes, you.