Gratitude is powerful. It can, when summoned, put most things into perspective. Thanksgiving hands us the opportunity to be grateful, and usually the celebration of the day is accompanied by all of the elements for which we are grateful—our families, our friends, our feasts, football.
Thanksgiving is a very special holiday for me as it is one of the few with no overtly religious tie-in. I struggled with my beliefs for a very long time. Raised as a Catholic, I was frustrated (furious) with the organized religion’s positions on many issues that I feel very, very strongly about. But more than that, I could not figure out how a loving god could allow such hate as existed in the world, free will or not.
Shortly after September 11, as I sat for what felt like weeks, sobbing and watching the rescue workers in the rubble, someone noted that all we could do was pray for the victims and their families. I was devastated anew—how could I pray when I did not believe?
And then, like a door blowing open, I understood that of course I could pray. I could pray for something, for those waiting, for those lost. I realized that in the midst of watching the misery play out on cable news we were also seeing all that is good in the world. We started to hear stories about people carrying others down dozens of flights of stairs, and running into buildings to warn responders. And I believed. I believed in the power within ourselves to do good.
I have a yellowing comic strip (cut from an actual newspaper) on my desk dated 11.21; no year is noted, but it is within the last six. The illustration is a young girl hugging a large, ferocious looking dog chained to a post, with the caption, “If the only prayer you say in your life is thank you, that would suffice.—Meister Eckhart”