After all the hours of preparation for Thanksgiving, the feasts shared with family and friends, and the words of gratitude for bountiful blessings, it has occurred to me that we might have overlooked some significant blessings which have come to us disguised in wolves’ clothing. The Leftover blessings.
In offering our thanks for all that we have, we have probably neglected to be thankful for what we don’t have – for any lack of fortune – whether it be a lack of material things, creature comforts, relationships, the right job, talent, or anything else we feel we’re missing.
Why should we be thankful for lack, for illness, for misfortune, for the consequences of bad decisions, or for the times we’ve been offended, insulted, abused or ignored? It has been my experience that through any of these, come opportunities to learn what we might not have learned in any other way.
From lack, for example, we can learn how little we really need to survive, even how to live well. We can learn how living with less helps us to be more resourceful. We can learn how to focus on the important things in life, how to develop our skills, how to motivate ourselves to pursue the kind of job or situation we need. If the lack is in relationships, we can learn how to really listen to others and to communicate better. We can learn more about who we are, and about being the best of who we are.
What about pain and illness? They can often provide opportunities to learn about our bodies, how they work, and what we can do to maintain or improve our health. Because pain is a signal that something needs attention, in pain and dis-ease, we are given the opportunity to listen to our bodies and what they are telling us. In turn, we might be able to use our knowledge and experience to help someone else in pain.
If we are feeling unfortunate because we have been wronged, offended, abused, or ignored, we can be thankful for this too, because it gives us the opportunity for self-examination, for developing our strengths, our wisdom and understanding, and for developing compassion for our fellow human beings.
I have found it to be true that our lifetimes are made up of cycles – ups and downs – and cycles within cycles. I have discovered that when I have a bad day or week, or month, or even an extended period, that there are moments within that day, days within that week, or weeks within that month or so when the sun shines through and I have clarity and some relief.
In his poem “If,” Rudyard Kipling called both Triumph and Disaster “imposters.” So why not be grateful for both? And why not every day?