Remember the “themes” we were required to write in school as the holidays approached? And the topic of course, was gratitude.
What does a nine-year-old know about gratitude? In the fourth grade, I barely understood the superficial element of the word and my holiday “theme” would come out sounding much like this:
“I am grateful for my mother and father and my sister. I am also grateful for my house and my swing set. I like to arrange the furniture in my dollhouse and dress my dolls. I love to play with my dog on the lawn and cuddle him when I watch television. My favorite thing to do is to go sledding with my friends down the steep hill of my street and then come home for hot chocolate. I am grateful when my mom makes my favorite dessert, apple crumb pie.”
Now, if asked to write a “theme before the holidays,” I would have a wholly different approach to that thing called gratitude.
Life, decade through decade, changes everything. For me, I’d have to parse through every year, to choose those people or incidents for which I am grateful. And that would be a difficult project. No one that I know has had an entirely easy life, or lengthy periods of time for which to be grateful. Those wonderful things come in small integers…minutes, hours, days and sometimes months. But every year has its sorrow, limitations and madness.
One day I can be grateful for all that I’ve learned; another day I will curse what I’ve experienced. But the one thing I understand, over all, is when I can be grateful for that something; that someone, I am enjoying the very best of life.
It’s not in the receiving, but in the giving. It’s in the knowing, not in the denial. It’s about love, when it’s the crux of your life; not when it’s gone.
I’m grateful to have learned all of this, and to know that every day brings surprises, joyous and dreadful. I’m also grateful that I’m now old enough to understand this while I can still make use of this wisdom.
Today, I love. I laugh. I fear. I mourn. And I am grateful that I can understand the wonderment of it all.