On This Thanksgiving Eve
November 23, 2006
I’m thinking of one word as we approach this Thanksgiving holiday: Gratitude.
For me, it’s about much more than turkey and cranberries. Sure, it’s easy to fall into the trap of yet another helter-skelter time-compressed mindset as we enter what for some, is a dreaded holiday season with all its pressures and obligations.
But right now I’m sitting quietly in my lake house, reflecting about having one day out of 365 to consider the concept of gratitude. On the other 364 days, what is the predominant feeling that you tend to experience? Anxiety? Stress? Anger? Fear? All common emotions of life in today’s modern economy. I recall reading an article recently about the #1 concern among Americans today: the lack of free time. In a time-compressed world, with deadlines everywhere and too much to do in too short a time, I sense that the predominant feelings tend to be the ones I described above. I think fear and anger tend to take 1st and 2nd place.
A dear friend of mine recently told me about an exercise that he practiced. Every day he would write down 5 things for which he was grateful. He would do this for several days. He discovered that it made a very meaningful difference in how he viewed the world. It actually changed how he felt, in his body.
I imagine that if we had the inclination to try this out, that we would have a different perspective about life in our deadline-driven world. It seems to me that one of the first things that suffer when we fall into this time-sick trance is the erosion of our relationships.
I’m thinking a lot about relationships these days. You see, about 9 months ago, I fell asleep at the wheel of my car after months of taking on too much, for too long. It was on a Interstate 95 – the New Jersey Turnpike – just outside of New York City. I never knew that I had passed out – mostly from exhaustion – as I approached a tollbooth near the Lincoln tunnel.
I happened to awaken just as the Volvo was threading the tollbooth lane at about 40mph. I’m not sure who was driving the car, but it sure wasn’t me. I woke up just as my 10-year old son yelled “Whoa!” because he sensed something was amiss. By some act of grace, we’re both still here. We didn’t smash into another car, into an innocent toll operator, or the cement barrier. We just sailed right through.
I pulled over, shaking about what had almost happened. Later, I thought about a friend of mine, Peter O’Farrell (who I wrote about in this blog) who had died less than 2 months earlier in a car crash, on a dark two-lane road in Maine. His son in the passenger seat survived.
On that day, my son David and I both happened to be spared. But it left me with a profound sense of gratitude. One that reminds me to re-evaluate my priorities from time to time. It also makes me realize that every day from here on out is a gift – for both of us. And for that, I will have a lot of gratitude for many days out of 365.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. Blessings to all of you and your families.