Giving Thanks and Time
By Lori Welch Brown
Giving Thanks and Time
November is the month of giving thanks, but really shouldn’t we be expressing gratitude daily?
I say that and yet I find myself struggling a bit to push my sadness and anxiety aside in order to feel genuine gratitude. October dealt a few blows that hit below the belt. A couple of dear—not to mention, young and vibrant—friends received frightening medical diagnoses. Another friend’s son decided to take his own life. Another friend is struggling with walking again after a stroke left her paralyzed. As I’m writing this column, I received word that a friend’s brother passed away suddenly and unexpectedly leaving her devastated.
With all this awful news, I can’t help but wonder what the universe has in store next? Tsunami? Another mass shooting? And, I’m angry because it seems that the kindest, most caring people I know seem to either be taken away too young or dealt the worst hands.
I find myself asking, “What or who is next?” “Is it my turn?” When does the other shoe fall?
That’s no way to live so I’m left with faith, hope, and prayer. I can be angry, anxious, and worried, or I can be content, hopeful, and trusting in the fact that there’s a higher power that is in control of the situation. Whatever the outcome, I’m not in charge. All I can do is pray and keep the faith.
Oh—and give thanks.
On those days when I find myself slipping down into the dark rabbit hole where funk resides, giving thanks requires a preliminary pep talk. I’ve found that even on the darkest days, there is always something to be grateful for—the food in my pantry, the fact that I have a pantry, the excellent medical care available to my friend, the fact that I have so many friends, the warm blankets I can crawl under to hide. You get the picture. Making a quick gratitude list helps me stay grounded and present. After all, slipping down into the rabbit hole isn’t helpful to anyone.
Expressing gratitude not only roots me in the present, but it also reminds me that there is always a beautiful bloom or two to be found in the pile of rubble. The trick is to hunt them down and keep them in focus. The rubble pile doesn’t miraculously disappear, but it’s nice to know that regardless of how high or deep the pile gets, something beautiful will always be able to break through.
We all know people who are facing big challenges—whether it’s the C-word, job loss, sick child, etc. Heck—you may be the one feeling adrift in a sea of hopelessness. Staying grounded in gratitude helps as does being in service to others. Recently I’ve started to keep a running list of things I can do to help others and/or people to reach out and check on as part of my daily routine. Sometimes it’s as simple as sending a text to a friend who is on her way to chemo or mailing a card to my elderly aunt.
These small acts not only keep us connected, but remind me that it truly is the little things that can make a big difference. Sometimes it’s hard to know what to do when people are dealing with a devastating loss or diagnosis, but the mere act of reaching out and saying, “I’m thinking of you,” or “I’m just checking in,” can be just what that person needs in that moment. Every act of kindness, every gesture of thoughtfulness is lifting that person up. It’s letting that person know they’re not alone. Even if I can’t relate and/or may not be able to understand what that person is going through, I can offer compassion.
October was a rough month in the midst of a rough year and a half. Just when I started to think things were getting back to ‘normal,’ I was reminded that life is cyclical, ever-changing, constantly evolving, and frequently unfair. It is up to us to weather the storms to the best of our ability while knowing we are never alone.
If you find yourself feeling alone this holiday season—which is possible even if you’re in a room full of people—try to look for ways to connect. Sometimes connecting with a ‘stranger’ via a help line or therapy session can help put things in perspective. I’ve often found that pouring my heart out to someone who has the ability to see things through a different, non-biased viewpoint has been my saving grace.
Some of the best ‘connections’ that may light you up inside may come in ways that might surprise you. Often when I’m feeling depleted, it’s that spontaneous conversation in line at the post office or Starbucks that has buoyed my spirit. Too often we overlook these small opportunities to connect because we are so busy in our own heads or are face planted in our phones. It’s these small interactions that feed our souls and remind us that we are here together sharing this experience called life.
This holiday season, try giving a few minutes of your time by making eye contact with the person sharing the line or saying hello to a few passing ‘strangers,’ and see what comes back to you. Reach out to someone who may be struggling in ways you cannot begin to comprehend. If you can’t think of what to say, start with “Hi, thinking of you.”
You might be pleasantly surprised as one of those encounters might be the highlight of your holiday season—and theirs.
Please follow Lori on Medium. She is a local writer, painter and pet lover who loves to share her experiences and expertise.