Recognizing what you can be thankful for

Sunday, November 22, 2009

A woman made a statement to her mother recently that made me ponder the little things that make one happy if one recognizes what's there.

The woman, Carrie, loved popping popcorn for herself and her two children the old-fashioned way. She preferred to pop it in a saucepan. Her son, Jason, and daughter, Brook, enjoyed learning about her perspective as they watched the fluffy white grains open and spring into the air, relishing each crunch even more with every bite. As I listened to her make such a big deal out of her art and method of popping corn, I was impressed. Then, she surprised me still more with what she said next, to Janet, her mom.

Janet had purchased a special pan from a thrift store to pop the corn in. She was afraid that shaking the pan around on the stove burner would ruin her very best cookware. As Carrie began her ritual of popping corn one evening Janet said "I bought a pan just for you to pop your corn in. Did you find the lid? It's in the drawer."

"Yes," Carrie said. "But I like the other pan better (the costly one). Jason likes to look through the glass lid and watch the popcorn pop."

What a simple thing for a mother to recognize. Both she and Jason found enjoyment in what would seem to most like a mundane task.

After hearing her statement, I took a step back in my mind to think of other apparently ordinary jobs and pleasures for which one could be thankful. Thanksgiving and Christmas season are the times when most people contemplate what it means to give to others. Noticing gratefulness and showing gratefulness are ways of giving, too. When you are appreciative of what's in your life, whether it's simple or elaborate, you can inspire other people through your positive attitude. When one spreads satisfaction and happiness the mood is contagious. Others will absorb his joy and enthusiasm and realize that they too, have much to be thankful for. They, also, will feel like singing "Give thanks to the Lord for he is good, his love is everlasting." (Heritage Missal 2009)

Jesus knew of the value of giving, proving it, when he turned water into wine at the wedding feast at Cana. (John 2:1-11) Mary must have, indeed, been thankful for his gift of love for her. It's not "what" you have to be thankful for that's important but that you realize what you've been given.

It's like finding gold in your backyard. It's been there all along, but you have failed to see it. If you continue to look outside yourself for your treasure, you usually won't find it. You take yourself, including your outlook, with you. If you can't be thankful in one setting, it's doubtful you will recognize your wealth in other circumstances.

Being thankful is a choice. When things crop up in your life, try to recognize and look. There certainly something there you can be thankful for.

Ellen Shuck holds degrees in psychology, religious education and spiritual direction and provides spiritual direction to people at her office.

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