Bid goodbye to ‘what have you got to lose?’ and say hello to ‘what are you grateful for?’
I’ve been called a Pollyanna.
“That’s OK with me” has been my acknowledgement more than once of a term intended to criticize. “Better a Pollyanna than a cynic!”
And that brings me to our country’s roughly 400th celebration this week of Thanksgiving, and the fundamental concept embedded in it – gratitude.
Although 1621 often is regarded as a Colonial founding date for Thanksgiving, which was proclaimed by George Washington in 1789, and floated on occasion until Congress in 1941 finally fixed it on the fourth Thursday, Wikipedia reports celebrations of it in 1607 in the Virginia colonies, perhaps even earlier.
Calvinists were among the first celebrants, Wikipedia notes, certainly in my view a compatible foundation for business people to celebrate Thanksgiving, since some historians regard ascetic Calvinism as the theological foundation of both “the work ethic” and early European capitalism.
But, given their Reformation religious traditions when the Protestant church broke off from the Roman Catholic, and the Calvinists diverged from John Luther and the Lutherans in short order, fundamental concepts of faith – including grace of God, blessings from Him, and others – persevered.
As a result, in hastening to a modern-day Thanksgiving celebration, each of our families should be viewing Thanksgiving today as the ultimate in celebration of the blessings of God – whether yours is a Hebrew, Christian, Confucian, Islam or other monotheistic being.
Few things are as important in life – whether one is “of faith” or is “not of faith” – as gratitude. Frankly, gratitude makes us better people.
One essayist describes gratitude as “the quality of being thankful and showing appreciation. It is a mindful acknowledgment of all that we have been given. When we focus on the abundance in our lives, we discover a greater capacity for generosity, cheerfulness, and contentment. Expressing gratitude is a rewarding habit that affirms the grace of the giver.”
“Gratitude opens our hearts, encourages us to savor each gift that comes our way, and magically frees us from jealously guarding our possessions. It lets us celebrate today rather than waiting for the next level of accomplishment or wealth. It is a reminder that one can always find reason to be glad.”
That is why I’d hope our readers will focus this Thursday not on a day off, or shopping lists for Black Friday or the traditional Lions or Cowboys’ NFL games (we’re Eagles’ fans after all, so who cares about the Cowboys?!?).
Rather, my prayer would be that – particularly given the corrosive electoral season we’ve just endured – that we identify the blessings God has put in our lives, and through whom God has acted to make our lives even better this year. No, not necessarily in a fiscal sense. Hopefully, in the sense of love and caring and goodness that should permeate our families.
In my case, I know I’m grateful to be surrounded by a loving family and extended family of friends and colleagues in all the communities in which I’m active, from faith to work to interests. They turned out to support me this month when I went through open heart double bypass surgery on Nov. 2.
I’m thankful too that God’s hand was on that of my cardiac surgeon Mike Banbury, and his team, and the fine people at Christiana Care who were part of my network there, all the fine nurses and attendants and others like Tim Gardener and Bill Weintraub and Natalie Dyke and Amy Bielicki and Lynn Jones and Jeff Benyo. And, notably, my cardiologist and navigator, “Drew” Doorey, who plotted the path through this most interesting 90-day trip.
We’re grateful too that two of my three worried young adults, my son Sam III in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and my VA PTSD social worker daughter Rachel in Brooklyn, were able to visit, and feel the reassurance of being present during that stressful time. (Not quite so easy for the third young Waltz adult, recently married Andrew, in San Diego.)
We’re grateful also that this is the year that my widowed mother-in-law in her mid-80s and her other daughter, a 61-year old developmentally disabled woman, were able to relocate from Pittsburgh to Delaware, where we can help navigate and support them through the next stages of their lives.
My list could go on forever. I’ve been blessed. As my family has been.
And, in turn, we try to share the blessings we’ve been given. For the last 4 or 5 years, my wife Sandi and I have chaired Angel Tree at our church, Brandywine Valley Baptist Church, helping organize Christmas gift-giving for the young children who have an incarcerated parent or parents, and this year we’ll stage that celebration once again at Hanover Presbyterian Church. in the city on Dec. 10.
One year, we surprised the Rev. Tom Laymon and his team at Sunday Breakfast Mission with a $500 check
for their Thanksgiving feast. Many years, we just go down and share our bounty.
So, let me ask you take home this column, share it, and ask your families two questions.
- Count your blessings. What are they? Write them down. Build a list.
- Share your blessings. What can you do this week, or next, to share the goodness in your lives?