Patsy Flint column: In search of prayer, she finds blessings
By Patsy Flint
Special to the Salisbury Post
Our mothers and fathers, well, mostly our mothers, taught us to write thank you notes. Some of my friends tell sort of horror stories about having to spend Christmas afternoon writing thank-you notes before they were allowed to play with their toys. We recall what a struggle it was to write a note to an aunt or grandmother thanking them for something we didn’t like and didn’t want or would rather have had in a different color or a much more expensive version that wasn’t so babyish.
At least Thanksgiving didn’t involve thank-you notes, but our participation was required at the table when we had to outdo each other telling things, in lofty tones, that we were thankful for.
Last year, some friends invited me for a big Thanksgiving dinner and honored me by asking me to give a Thanksgiving blessing because I was the oldest at this gathering and therefore the wisest ó right? I panicked ó my family didn’t say grace or blessings out loud. We held hands and prayed silently until my Dad said “Amen.” So I had no idea where to begin, so I declined.
“Ah, ha,” I said after I’d hung up. I had forgotten about the Internet. I found the historical meaning of Thanksgiving going back further than the 1620 tradition in which the Pilgrims shared a feast with the Wampanoag Indians. They began the feast with a prayer of thanks. They were celebrating their survival and their first harvest. For guidance, the Pilgrims went to their Bible (Leviticus 23) and found the Feast of the Ingathering of Israelites celebrating their delivery from the desert of Sinai. It is also called the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot).
Actually, the Bible speaks of giving thanks nearly from cover to cover. I Thessalonians 5:18 says, “No matter what happens, always be thankful, for this is God’s will for you.”
I found lots of ideas for blessings on the Internet, but none of them sounded like something I would say. So I thought, “I can do this. I can write my own ‘Thanksgiving Bit.’ ”
Now that I am old and wise, I understand that giving thanks is one of the main Spiritual Principles of the Universe. We call it gratitude.
I was brought up not only to write thank-you notes, but also to always say “thank you,” when someone gave me something, including compliments. However, when I complained about something, I was told to “count your blessings,” and that “life is not a bowl of cherries.”
But it wasn’t until very recently that I understood the power of Feeling Gratitude and Expressing Gratitude, silently or out loud every day and if possible, all day long, every day.
Melody Beattie says, “Gratitude is a way to unlock the fullness of life, to turn what you have into enough and more, to turn denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity, problems into gifts, failures into success, the unexpected into perfect timing, mistakes into important events, make sense out of the past, bring peace for today and create a vision for tomorrow.”
But how? How do you do this? Do you just start thinking of all the things you’re grateful for and make a list ómaybe keep a Gratitude Journal? Yeah, that’s one way.
But here’s the easiest and most effective way: I’m part of a spiritual group and our very special teacher, Dianna Baty, taught me this. I’ve never had anyone explain it to me so well:
Wake up in the morning and be glad you woke up. Open your eyes and be glad you can open your eyes. Put your feet on the floor and be happy you can do that simple thing. Appreciate that you can stand up.
Express gratitude that you can walk to the bathroom.
Be glad you have electricity so that you can turn on a light.
Be happy you have an indoor toilet.
Feet gratitude that you have a toothbrush and toothpaste and don’t have to go outside to break off a stick and use a leaf to brush your teeth.
Keep going in this vein as long as you can and keep reminding yourself to appreciate everything throughout the day.
Go outside into the real world and pay attention to it.
What a simple concept and one that’s easy to make fun of. It wasn’t until I had practiced this ritual many days in a row that I realized, there’s magic in Gratitude.
… Magic in appreciating the tiny authentic moments that bring us contentment; simple pleasures often overlooked and taken for granted.
And to me that’s what Thanksgiving is all about. It’s all day, every day.
– – –
Former Salisbury resident Patsy Flint lives in Bloomington, Ind.