This week my wife and I have been traveling between relations in the midwest, and right now I’m fortunate enough to be at the keyboard of a relative who has DSL! A few days ago in a midwest mall, I gladly paid three dollars for a couple hours of wireless internet access just to access email. I did this a few times, even when I could only use ten minutes of the two hours slots.
The ability to stay in touch with people via the internet has been a blessing. Especially now that providers like rise broadband can provide internet without laying down miles of cables. Then there’s internet on planes and on your phone, even when abroad. You could say it’s hard to not have any kind of internet access at all nowadays. All the better to give thanks for the technology that allows us to stay in touch with our loved ones.
The subject of this entry is season-appropriate, about giving thanks.
There’s hardly a shortage of inspirations for giving thanks. Being raised by a Catholic mother in the Church, and by an Evangelical father, Christian tradition certainly supports this concept. And giving to the church with tithings is part of that tradition too, luckily there is software nowadays like Tithe.ly that can make churches receive easier. But a modern scientific education didn’t give much credence to the simple truth of the importance of thanksgiving. The police chief greeted the agnostic cop in the sitcom “Barney Miller” with a “Happy Thanksgiving”, and the agnostic said “I don’t celebrate Thanksgiving because I don’t know who to give thanks to.” The chief said “It’s just a way of saying, ‘How are ya, Buddy!’ So, Happy Thanksgiving!”. And the agnostic cop replied “How are ya, Buddy!”
Well, agnosticism was my path after high school until meditation and difficulties turned me back toward religion in my late twenties. At that point, I started to see many simple proofs for the value of Spirituality and of the existence of a higher being. And there have been a number of wonderful teachings of the value of giving thanks that don’t even center on a All Knowing, All Seeing, Being in the Sky that unfortunately for many is clothed in unpalatable traditional garb that seems to need changing.
One of the great teachers and mentors that have clarified and expanded on the value of appreciation and giving thanks are Kurt and Patricia Wright. Giving appreciation actually benefits the giver by training the mind to focus on and find value. If you’ve ever bought a car, you’ve probably experienced the sudden appearance of your vehicle all over the road. Your model of Volkswagen or Ford Truck was probably covering the road in the same numbers before and after your purchase. But your mind was suddenly tuned into finding your make and model or even probably finding someone reliable to renovate and accommodate truck bed covers into the existing model. If you have the choice between picking up a piece of trash or a 20 dollar bill, we’d all easily choose the 20 dollar bill. Yet, when it comes to the trash we pick up and hold in our minds, most of us are much less discriminatory. Deliberate appreciation is just good training of the mind to pick up the good stuff! And the more we train our minds in this direction, the more good things and great opportunities we’ll be able to see and enjoy.
A very interesting thing happened on the drive back east. Sometimes it’s easy to focus on the length of the driving, the inconvenience, the poor driving habits of others, or bad road conditions. Instead I started asking value-generating questions, things that Kurt and Patricia Wright recommend we do. What do I like about this road? What’s great about the snow I’m seeing? I did this for about five minutes. I had been a little depressed, and after a while my mind drifted away from this little exercise. What shocked me was realizing a short while later I was in a tremendously good mood, and I was able to offer jokes and cheerfulness that not only lifted my own spirits, but that of my passenger.
So now some practice. This is really for my own benefit, but perhaps it can be an example. What are you most grateful for this Thanksgiving holiday? What am I grateful for? I’m grateful for having supportive loving parents who’ve stayed together all my life despite many difficulties. I’m grateful for the love and support of my wife, and the opportunity to know her more deeply through knowing her family as we travel between them here in the mid-west. I’m grateful for a job that helps me grow as a person. I’m grateful for the Chantilly Theatre, that has taught me some valuable lessons about selfishness versus true leadership.
That just reminded me of Peter Drucker. In his book “Managing the Non-Profit Organization” was something that really blew me away, as I’ve spent years in self-development with less than the results I’d hoped for and Drucker relates that a good leader doesn’t think “I”, he or she thinks “we”. Not from self-training, but because the true leader identifies with the team and focuses on the task and the mission. I’m very grateful for that lesson this Thanksgiving!