It’s the month of thanksgiving and Thanksgiving…my favorite holiday! It gives us a formal reason to remember to be grateful for our blessings! On Thanksgiving morning for many years when all our children were home we would have a roll of adding machine paper (any roll of paper will do) on which the children started writing things they were thankful for. They began as soon as they woke up and finished when Thanksgiving dinner was served. Each cousin, aunt and uncle who walked in the door was besieged with requests for their list of “thankful things” so they could better the number of items on the list from the year before. Included were not only the things you would expect like eyes, ears, nose, toes but thumbs, doorknobs, favorite characters from movies and books they’d seen or read that year, healed bones and the color red. The last one I remember had 1200 things that we were thankful for. We hung the list over the Thanksgiving table and just enjoyed being thankful!
As the kids got older we gathered after Thanksgiving dinner to have our “Thankful Game”. Each of us compiled a list of ten things that we were most grateful for that year that was unique to us. Each person then took a turn reading his/her list. If someone had the same thing on their list both had to cross that off of their list. The one with the most “thankful things” left of their list in the end was the winner. It was not only fun but gave great insight to what blessings were received by each member of the family and extended family that year.
No matter how hard we try not to take things for granted, I was reminded again recently of how very grateful we should be for just the little things in life that seem so ordinary and yet are such great blessings. Last week we had the opportunity to attend a conference in Miami where one of the keynote speakers was a woman who had survived the holocaust. On the day her family was “rounded up” and put into a ghetto in Warsaw her father had a prompting to tell her to wear her ski shoes to school. Though it wasn’t cold and she complained she wore the shoes…the same ones she would wear for the next three years as she suffered first in the ghettos, then in a horrendous concentration camp and then on the “Death March.” At the end of the war when the Nazis didn’t want the outside world to know what had happened, she was one of four thousand Jews from her camp forced to walk hundreds of miles in the ice and cold of winter wearing rags. She was one of a hundred and twelve who survived.
While in the concentration camp she described being brutalized and starved. Standing in line for food she prayed that just one lump of potato would find its way to her ladle of thin watery broth when it came out of the pot to her battered tin bowl. Her best friend, a former neighbor who was a concert pianist was suffering by her side. One week before she died, this friend found one precious raspberry in the gutter and harbored it tenderly all day until she was able to give this treasure to her.
There were so many things that she mourned the loss of in her years of mistreatment and incarceration but she said that the thing she missed and dreamed of most was “a boring evening at home”. She would have given almost anything for what we would surely take for granted! I was struck with that statement as I realized how often we just take those simple blessings of reading bedtime stories with our kids and then getting a snack from a loaded refrigerator for granted. Keeping focused on those seemingly simple blessings makes our lives full and happy!
The next time you are pulling out your hair trying to help kids with homework, straighten up the house for the next day, organize a PTA meeting or church activity on the phone with one hand and feeding a fussy baby with the other, remember to count your blessings of having your children there with you on that, if not boring…”challenging” evening at home! A phrase from one of my favorite scriptures comes to mind: “live in thanksgiving daily”.