Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Giving Thanks



Stacy Snyder - Parent Unplugged - Giving Thanks - Child Praying
“Dear God.  Thank you for the Sullivans, Harry and Rosie.  Thank you for the teachers.  Please help us not to fight.  Oh ya, and thank you for teaching us to be polite.  Amen.”

Spoken like a true three-year-old, whose head is filled with the recent good time spent at the home of good friends, days spent picketing with the teachers during the strike, and a new babysitter who stresses no fighting on the playground and compliments my daughter on her manners.

If only our parental days could be wrapped up so conveniently in an evening prayer of thanks and call for help.  But can’t it?  Of course it can.  We sometimes get so caught up in the daily grind that we forget to just take a minute to breathe, appreciate life and the little things that make it worthwhile.  We seldom acknowledge that we can use some guidance every now and then because we don’t have all the answers.

I sometimes laugh at myself for thinking I have such a stressful life and playing into the drama of it all.  I tend to get going so fast in my daily quest to complete as many tasks as possible, that I sometimes physically hurt myself!  I literally run around the house or the neighborhood or the school or the office at warp speed.  I’ve been known to trip, fall, and crash into people and things.  

It’s usually after one of those events that one of my kids says, “Mom, just slow down.  It’s not the end of the world.  Just relax!”

Again, my children teach me instead of the other way around.  It’s truly humbling to listen to the sincerity in their voices and the wisdom of their words.  Each evening after I’ve been told to slow down by one of my kids, it never fails that they include me in their prayers, either at the dinner table or before bed.

“Thank you for Little Mama, and please help her slow down and not run into things.”

I’ve found that when I do take the time to slow down, whether it is for a moment of prayer or appreciation, a few minutes of meditation, or sometimes just a short period of rest or doing absolutely nothing, it sets the tone for calmness.  I feel renewed, restored, and ready to face most anything that comes my way.  Conversely, when I keep stubbornly butting my head up against a wall, refusing to take a few minutes to give thanks for the things that ARE going right, or the people that are part of my world, the day usually goes from bad to worse.

A priest told me recently that going to church and worshipping communally is not always going to be fun or interesting or awe-inspiring.   He said sometimes it takes work, or at least cognizance, to find the peace.  He suggested noting one thing, anything, each week at church, and to appreciate it.  It could be the way a certain hymn sounds when sung or the pat on the shoulder from a fellow parishioner, or the cry of a baby a few pews behind you.  The point is to notice it and be thankful of its presence.

Translate this concept into our day-to-day lives, and we’ve got a prescription for healthy living, where we consciously at first, then naturally as it becomes more familiar, take a minute to notice those people, things, and events around us and appreciate them.  Giving thanks for the unfamiliar lends easily to being grateful for what exists in our personal lives.

Noticing the way the man on the train quietly chuckles as he reads a passage in a book may help you remember to take a minute to yourself on your commute without the work emails, weekly scheduling, and phone calls to just BE.  Recognizing the trap of chairs and bars that the elderly woman down the block sets on her front porch every evening to ward off intruders before retiring may allow you to be thankful for your house full of people and pets that helps you feel secure every minute of every day.  Watching your child struggle with learning multiplication tables may allow you to not only value the fact that your own school days are over, but also to appreciate the extra time that you have the ability to spend with your child on homework, as the other stuff can wait.

I challenge you to make a simple pledge of noticing what’s around you today and taking an active moment to appreciate just one thing you encounter today.  Let it be the way the clouds billow or the dog barks or the amazing ability that guy ahead of you has of weaving in and out of traffic without causing an accident.  Notice one thing and be thankful for it.  Keep doing it daily, and the rest will happen naturally. You won’t be able to help but giving gratitude for things in your own life.