What are you doing for Thanksgiving? This question often starts a conversation about how we will spend a much-loved American holiday. Friends and family members begin naming their favorite traditions. This year maybe you’d like to add a new practice. It may even become a new tradition.
Name your favorite “giving thanks” words and images; the more the better (even if you name shopping and turkey). On my list is family gathering, a large round oak dining table, sharing food, good friends, community leisure, prayer, and a generous faithful God.
Our community prayer closes at the monastery when the leader gathers the participants’ prayer into a “collect.” The final dismissal is: “let us go in peace.” The assembly replies: “and give God thanks.” These phrases are an ending that introduces a beginning: preparing our minds and hearts to receive the demands of a new day.
Today, like other days, will be filled with appointments and meetings mostly of my choosing; they’re on my calendar. However, there will be unplanned and inconvenient “surprises” (people and events) that intrude on my time and space. Do intrusions require gratitude?
When fully awake and at my best, I remember to receive gratefully these “happenings,” might we name them “strangers?” They ask from me welcome and entertainment. Experience tells me there is a blessing inherent in the unexpected if I bring an open heart.
Failure to receive life’s circumstances but rather complain and grumble about them is one of the behaviors Saint Benedict finds least desirable. In the scriptures and in the Rule of Benedict, grumbling is seen as failure to trust and honor God.
In her book, One Heart, One Soul, Sr. Mary Forman, OSB suggests that the antidote to grumbling seems to be a combination of humility, contentment and gratitude. Practicing gratitude this Thanksgiving is a good beginning. Contentment and humility may need another holiday.