In hindsight I should have shared this message with you on Canadian Thanksgiving (October 10th), but with extra work hours, a crazy hectic schedule, and my brother getting engaged (kinda a big deal, you know) it somehow got missed. That is to say that whereas I’ve been keeping up the practice, I realize not everyone has been informed.
This Thanksgiving my house at L’Arche decided to do something unique. We took out a jar of red kidney beans and decided to add one to the fishbowl each day as we named aloud or in our hearts something we are thankful for. When you work at a house where the majority of people are non-verbal this does get a bit tricky, and after successfully dodging a few attempts from our core members (residents) who thought it might be a nice, tasty after dinner dessert, I think we have finally got the hang of it. Naming our gratitudes out loud every day is an excellent way to become more mindful of all the blessings around us. It helps us to feel more positive especially on days that have been particularly difficult, demanding, or draining.
Prior to leaving for Edinburgh last year, I was sitting in on a Tyndale chapel service and the speaker (a young woman, no more than 21) shared about her experience of keeping a gratitude journal. This is something I decided to take up when I was abroad. Sure, there were days when life was wonderful, but there were plenty of other days when life was just the pits. It was easy to feel homesick and lonely (especially at the beginning when I didn’t know anyone) and during the winter I went through a period of depression because of the lack of sunlight and the high amount of rain. But through it all, my gratitude journal helped me to really put things in perspective. When I was feeling down and out about the sunlight, I thanked God for the extra strength and energy my Vitamin D tablets gave me. When I was annoyed by the rain, I thanked God that the vast amount of rain is the exact reason why Scotland is so beautiful and why everything is always so green there compared to our ugly brown clumps of grass we often get in Ontario. When I felt homesick, I thanked God for Skype and good technology so I could keep in touch with friends and family while I was away. When I wondered if L’Arche was actually where I was meant to be, I thanked God for confirming over and over again it was the place He wanted me at this stage in my life.
After Canadian Thanksgiving, I decided that between Canadian Thanksgiving and American Thanksgiving (November 24th) I would think of 3 gratitudes each day. Originally I was planning to write them on Facebook, but I declined this thought because I feel like it’s sometimes more meaningful just to thank God silently from the depths of your heart. It’s not a competition to “one up” your friends or come up with the best gratitude. Instead, it can be something simple yet profound. A wide smile from a friend, a pat on the back, or a five dollar bill tucked into your shirt that you just happened to find now.
This week, my challenge to you is to find at least 3 things every day that you are grateful for. Let them come to your naturally and at the end of the day, consider a way to make them tangible. For some this might result in a Facebook status or Instagram picture, for others this might be writing your points of thanksgiving down in a journal or notebook. Another thing you can consider (and that I’ve tried in the past) is to find an unused mason jar and write some gratitudes down on a slip of paper. You can then see how your jar fills up and read the points out loud whenever you are having a tough day. You can use other objects as visual reminders, too: marbles, pennies (or other small coins), or even kidney beans! If you’re using coins, another thing you can think about it how to bless others. Maybe at the end of the year you can donate the money to a charity of your choice as a way to “pay-back” the community and the world for all of the bounty you have received.
I hope that this week not only will you be richly blessed, but that you’ll also find a way to richly bless others. Happy Thanksgiving to all of you American readers!