Daily Celebrations of Hope

     I'd like to find the first corporate MBA who thought moving Black Friday to Thanksgiving day, pulling employees away from their families and ask them what they're doing today.  I'm sure it's not at a checkout counter in retail. Like the changing family structure in America our Thanksgiving occurs on three different days:  Last Sunday with one set of in-laws and siblings nearby, today with my other in-laws and Sunday with my father's family in Grand Rapids.  We won't see those in California, Washington, D.C. or Hawaii but have either already spoken with them or will shortly.  All three occasions we'll be missing my oldest son who's working at a homeless shelter in Kalamazoo.

     A family member recently said to me that we were going to have a "crappy Christmas" based on cash flow. My response was immediate.  If we're together it will be a wonderful Christmas because that's all that matters. I just don't have much sentiment for, as Tim Jackson quoted during his Ted talk on economic reality - "spending money we don't have for things we don't need on people we don't really like." That doesn't mean I don't like my immediate or extended family by any means and I love giving and in some cases getting gifts but what do any of us really need?  If you have time, read Bill Gates LinkedIn post. In my extended families whether doctors, teachers, consultants, business executives or those of us who are in some ways disabled and not fully self-sufficient we certainly don't need another trinket, sweater or nick-knack. Particularly with aging parents what we and most Americans really need is more time together just being. Without politics (quite diverse in my family and sure to spark conflict), without economic comparisons (also quite diverse as in most families) and instead in open acceptance of the value each contributes to the family, community and the organizations we all work for.

     Remembering some things that I'm grateful for this Thanksgiving isn't hard at all.
  • Our sons aren't in Afghanistan this year but learning to adapt to part-time civilian life again and growing as contributors to society in other ways while still serving.
  • We have a roof over our heads, the utility bills are paid, and the refrigerator is full of food.
  • With a few exceptions we are healthy.
  • There are many people (related or not) who love us and demonstrate so beyond words.
  • There are organizations and numerous individuals who rely on us to serve their needs nearly seven days a week.
  • We (immediate family) are on the way to recovery from the global economic crisis.
  • The continued growth of networked relationships providing admonition, wisdom, leadership and motivation to my own lifelong learning.
     The difference is that I feel that gratitude daily.  As at times I'll respond when casual acquaintances ask "how are you?"  "If I woke up this morning breathing, it's a great day." My faith is such that I get sentimental watching the sun rise or set, rabbits or deer feeding on the plants we grow instead of grass, a flower blooms, the sun breaks through the clouds during storms or as yesterday the snow flakes blow past the windows.  Even more so for interaction, innovation and opportunity to serve another human being regardless of social standing.  While grateful for a partial day off (I will do some student grading and my own PhD research today) and definitely the time to gather with family, Thanksgiving and Christmas are sentiments I celebrate daily. When I don't is when bouts of anger or depression set in and I have to force my self to stop the negativity and examine what really is more to be thankful for than I could ever list.

     With my schedule I don't really take time to stop and smell the roses as often as I should.  But living in the moment I do take time to notice their existence and thank God for such beauty. Even more so when that beauty comes from within (not externally) another human being. Thursday, November 28th, 2013 is going to be a great day to serve the needs of others and make a positive impact. In doing so we serve ourselves as well whether we realize it or not.  We really are one in the spirit, regardless of what name we give that eternal connection. May your gratitude grow unbounded in days to come and be shared with those you come in contact with.  Peace and grace to you this day and always.

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