Last week my post explored the power of gratitude and the simple act of making a gratitude list. I found myself paying attention to the many beautiful moments that brought me gratitude, and the more difficult moments that compete for my attention. This week’s post explores the connection between gratitude, family, and community.
The week before Thanksgiving overflowed with opportunities to see and appreciate love. When I can see and appreciate love, it is easier to be grateful. On Tuesday that week, our daughter-in-law gave birth to identical twin boys. It was a 24-hour delivery with lots of worry and prayers for healthy babies and Mom. As it happened, the twins arrived at over 6 pounds each and are now happily at home.
Geraldine and I visited them last week. What a beautiful sight! Even at one week old, we can recognize in these innocent little ones their shared “oneness” and emerging different personalities.
They are one in their beauty – the miracle of new life and how all the parts they need are there and working. They are simple in their needs – to be held, to be comforted, to be fed, to be cleaned, and to sleep. As my son held and comforted one and his wife the other, it was obvious how their love for each other and these newborns was so much bigger and more powerful than their exhaustion. It is also obvious that there is intense work ahead to nurture and provide a loving home for these two little boys.
As I sat and took in the joy and beauty of the moment, my gratitude was blended with awareness of the challenges ahead and the resulting question, “How can we help?” I chose to focus on the good and be grateful, although worry about the future could have overridden my joy. Gratefully, it didn’t.
The weekend before our visit we had two other reminders of the power of family to foster gratitude and love. Geraldine and I are part of a group for married couples. It’s a faith-based group that recognizes marriage as a sign of the love of the Divine for us all and our oneness with LOVE and the Spirit of LOVE. I find exploring marriage as a spiritual bond a source of gratitude. In our faith tradition, we believe that God as LOVE is at the center of our marriage. There are three of us in community – me, Geraldine and God as LOVE. For me, this is a much more powerful unity than me and Geraldine, or me alone.
Following the retreat, we went to a reunion with members of my family on my father’s side whom I see very infrequently. A cousin had suggested a reunion when we were together recently at my brother’s memorial service. His dad is in his 80’s and frail. He wanted to give his dad and all of us an opportunity to connect. I attended with both a sense of openness and obligation and in the end, was delighted with the outcome.
We enjoyed hearing for the first time tender stories about my father’s father and how the women of the family found him charming and adorable. He would take them to the beach and wade out in the ocean with his sandals on. On Thanksgiving, he would go out squirrel hunting in the morning before coming to Thanksgiving dinner.
These three experiences powerfully reminded me that we need each other to help us thrive. We are not meant to be self-reliant and walk through life alone. We all arrive as innocent and helpless as my twin grandchildren. If we are fortunate, we are nurtured by loving parents or their surrogates. As we develop, we then get to choose with whom we want to connect and build community and what form that takes.
My life is rich in opportunities for gratitude. My personal challenge is not letting the voice of “not enough” and related negative thoughts block out the joyful ones. Developing the habit of gratitude is one way I can soften the “not enough” negative voice and celebrate the beauty of love in my marriage, my family and my community. How do you experience gratitude? What ideas or beliefs might block it or limit its power for you?