Why Giving Thanks Is Important

 

This week is Thanksgiving. Being the most traveled holiday in the United States, like many other families, ours will be converging on our house this week, filling it with children and their spouses and our grandchildren. Controlled chaos is the best way to describe all the hoopla as we cook, make arts and crafts like cinnamon stick Santas and, of course, give thanks.

At the Thanksgiving table, our family has a longtime tradition of holding hands as each of us cites what it is we are thankful for during the past year. When each person finishes their personal prayer of thanks, they squeeze the hand of the next person signaling their turn. As you may expect, most of the thanks is for family, health, good friends and the food on the table. Occasionally, we have a moment of sobering reflection like the year our friend, Bonnie, who had terminal cancer, sobbed, “I’m grateful for another year of life.” The following November she passed away just before Thanksgiving.

Everyone faces adversity. Giving thanks is important no matter what time of year it is. But, Thanksgiving provides a special opportunity to celebrate our blessings. As with Bonnie, who gave thanks for life itself, Thanksgiving affords a moment to concentrate on the positive aspects of any misfortune. Focusing on the good in our lives helps us realize how fortunate we are. Devoting our attention to the gratitude we feel for the non-material aspects of living enhances our joy in life.

Positive thoughts are healthy thoughts. Dwelling on the negative results in negative thoughts. That in turn becomes anger, unhappiness and perhaps even depression. Conversely, expressing gratitude negates the negativity.

As you sit down to your Thanksgiving meal, whether at home or a restaurant, whether a big dinner with all the trimmings or basic fair, whether surrounded by family and friends or by yourself, give thanks for all that is great and positive and wonderful in your life, open your soul and your heart to your gratitude for the everyday blessings of life and immerse yourself in the joy of simply living.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Advertisements

HAPPY HOLIDAYS

This is not the type of article I usually write. For some, it may be a little controversial. That’s O.K. – this is just my thought and perspective – comments from my readers are always welcome. I find as I age, I am less interested in ideology and more interested in spirituality. I feel a shift in my world view. Globally, we are facing humanitarian crisis after crisis of gargantuan proportions. Yet, once again, it has started – the continued arguments over the term ‘Happy Holidays’. The articles, news comments, Facebook posts and even political candidates weighing in on what, for some, is apparently a controversy. Last year I had someone say to me, “I hate Happy Holidays!” I asked myself, “How is it that someone is using the word hate in this season of peace, love and joy? And, is so indignant over something so small?” Consequently, I decided this year to weigh in myself in an attempt to give a different perspective. Considering how the world is currently ripping apart at the seams, filled with war, terrorism, hunger, homelessness and on and on and on, in this season of giving thanks, this season of peace, this season of love, I offer these thoughts.

The use of the term Happy Holidays is not a recent occurrence. As a child in the 1950s and 60s, I remember my Mother often used the greeting Happy Holidays. My Mother sometimes worked at one of the local stores during the Holiday Season, which in the United States, started around Thanksgiving. In those days, we were a country primarily of Christians. If, like my Mother, you worked at a store starting around Thanksgiving, can you imagine the clerks saying, “Happy Thanksgiving, Happy Hanukah, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year,” before handing you your package and receipt. Instead, they said, “Happy Holidays.” From my point of view, and I was a child at the time so I could be totally off kilter on this one, but it seems to me Happy Holidays was a wish of inclusion. Heck, when I was a kid, Andy Williams sang a popular song, ‘Happy Holiday’, which was originally sung by Bing Crosby in 1942 and written by Irving Berlin in 1941. To me, it is still a Christmas song I listen to at Christmas. But, it could be a song for any of the other celebrations during the Holiday Season, as well. So, Happy Holidays was used way before I was born! Yet, some people take offense at its use like it’s a recent occurrence designed to be a war on Christmas.

I don’t remember any controversy over the use of the term Happy Holidays when I was a child. So, why in recent years has it become such an issue for some people? Perhaps it is because in the 1950s and 1960s, Christians were pretty much in the majority, at least in the United States. I can’t speak for the rest of the world. But in our modern times, we live in a much more pluralistic nation and for that matter, many other countries are also more diverse. Today, a store clerk would have to add Happy Kwanzaa, Happy Winter Solstice and, a new one I recently heard, Happy HumanLight. If we are a diverse people, a welcoming people, a people wanting to include rather than exclude, than Happy Holidays recognizes our diversity, it welcomes someone regardless of their faith or even if they don’t have one. It includes everyone. If I know someone is a Christian, I say, “Merry Christmas.” If I know someone is Jewish, I say, “Happy Hanukkah.” And, so on. To me, that is just common courtesy. As a Christian, I am not offended if someone says, “Happy Holidays” to me. It is all inclusive, welcoming and courteous. I recognize the person most likely has no idea what my affiliation is but is still showing me common courtesy with a wish for a Happy Holiday. I don’t expect everyone on the planet to be like me and I wouldn’t want that. I celebrate our diversity as human beings. It’s about acceptance of differences and not making this all about me or my faith.

This season is not about us individually. It is not about self-righteous indignation. It is not about what we like or dislike. It is not about what we believe in or don’t believe in. It is not about creating still more us vs. them situations. It is not about red cups or whether a retailer or someone on the streets says Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas. We certainly have larger worries as a world. We are all connected as a world. When one suffers, we all suffer. And there is already way too much suffering. In this season of love, peace and joy, let us put aside the minutiae and accept each other regardless of how we celebrate the season. Let us give thanks for our diversity and that we have the ability to make the world a better place. Let us truly make this a season of love, peace and joy.

I leave you with the Buddhist prayer of loving kindness:

May you be well;
May you be happy;
May you be peaceful;
May you be loved.

To all my readers, whatever your faith, wherever you live – Happy Holidays,

Kathy

WITH GRATITUDE

20131126-091812.jpg

A year ago this week I decided to start blogging about my retirement experience. With the help of a Royal Elf, I chose WordPress for my hosting site and within a couple of hours I was ready to launch. The biggest obstacle I encountered was what to name the blog. After searching domain names and finding every one of my choices already taken, I named it the obvious…kathysretirementblog. My first post was made on November 29, 2012. Just a photo of myself on the suspended bridge across Grandfather Mountain near Blowing Rock, North Carolina. It was titled “Swinging in the Wind”, a reference to how I felt about the transition into retired life. During this last year as I chronicled my transition in 61 additional posts, you, my readers, have given me nearly 10,000 views and, best of all, numerous comments and personal emails about how my posts inspired, provoked thought or just plain entertained.

As the site and my following has continued to grow, I have been asked to guest post on a couple of other sites. Last night I received an email from Simone at retirementandgoodliving.com saying, “I just wanted to let you know that your guest post (http://retirementandgoodliving.com/retirement-stages/) on our site has been one of the most read posts on the site since it was published.” I cannot express how gratifying it is to be writing stories that are being read and effect others lives in a positive way. You are from all walks of life, young and old, retired and not retired. Reaching such a diverse group has been another pleasant surprise.

It is with heart-felt gratitude that I thank each and every one of you from my loyal followers to those of you who check in on occasion to catch up to those of you who have only recently discovered kathysretirementblog. I hope I can continue to earn your support and inspire you to seek your own retirement dream.

With gratitude – Kathy Merlino