I’m a writer, so I tend to take my words quite seriously. That’s why I want to issue a sweet but urgent warning about some of the words we tend to use this season of thanksgiving and holiday cheer – words like gratitude, hope, and love.
These are words that heal and warm the heart, of course, and to feel them rolling on our lips is certainly noble and noble, but here is the problem: if we allow them to remain only words – if we don’t take responsibility. to turn words into action – we have effectively rendered them inert.
By that I mean this: I can write about the goodness and glory of gratitude until the cows come home (and what better day to write about gratitude than Thanksgiving Day, isn’t it? right?), but unless I get up from my keyboard, walk away from my desk, and push myself straight into the world to practice gratitude on purpose, then I’m giving my own gratitude bluntly. Don’t get me wrong: the wording is fine – essential, even – but I also need to put my gratitude into motion.
I have to make him move.
I need your light, and you need mine
I have neither the time nor the luxury to make my gratitude inert. After the year we have all lived, the collective act of thanks must be bold and daring. Loud and hoarse and bright. I need to light my gratitude like a lamp so that others can feel its warmth and be enlightened by its light, and I need my brothers to do the same for me. Of course, I will shine my light… but I also need your light. And don’t just say the words; shower me with the deeds. God knows we’ve been in the dark long enough. We all need this light.
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I feel like I need to shout my gratitude today, to say “thank you” for a few things in particular that have helped me survive this almost impossible year to survive. Here are a few things that really seeped into the deepest crevices of my gratitude this year:
I am grateful for the vaccine. I am deeply grateful to the medical and scientific community for the development of the COVID-19 vaccine. The vaccine saves lives. Period. How did I propel my gratitude into action? By getting the vaccine, receiving the booster, continuing to wear my mask in public places and exercising caution, and recognizing that this pandemic is far from over with us. I am also grateful for the recent announcement from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that the recall is now permitted for all adults. On this day, I give science a cry.
I am grateful for my grief. I need to explain this one. I have lost a lot of friends this year. I will never see them again, laugh at their jokes or look them in the eye. That I miss them with such ferocity is positive proof that our bond was strong; the depth of my grief over these broken ties is commensurate with the level of my love for them. I know this grief will pass and pure love will remain, but I choose to let this grief be with me for a moment. No, I won’t let him cripple me, but yes indeed, I will honor his momentary existence.
I think of my close friend Mary, who passed away a few months ago at the age of 101. I am grateful for her long life and thankful, even, that I miss her as much as I do. How am I going to put my gratitude into action? By spreading his wisdom, sharing his stories and keeping a strong and living bond with his surviving loved ones. (Mary was also a writer. Shortly after her death, I assembled a group of writers, via Zoom, so that we could read her handwriting aloud. In this way, her written words took on new life. Gratitude in action.)
On this Thanksgiving morning, I’ll be holding my photo from the “Mary D” 100th birthday party. I’m going to take him out of the frame and run my finger over his beautiful face. I will smile at the sight of the pink “100” tiara that I put in her silver hair that day. And I’ll reach out to her family to share Mary’s memories.
What my mother taught me
I am grateful for the extraordinary beauty of the ordinary. On this Thanksgiving Day and all days after, I will continue to seek (and find) the extraordinary beauty of ordinary things. My mom taught me that. She taught me to train my own brain to find as much beauty in a simple brown sparrow dancing in the dust as I find in the glorious, preening peacock strutting in the sun. They are blessings of equal proportion.
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That day, I will feel as much gratitude for that old glass of water on my table as I do for the miraculous sweet potato pie that (hopefully) will reach me in a few hours. A grateful heart is constantly grateful. If you are grateful for everything – always – you don’t leave anything out.
My mom is gone, but the way she taught me to express my gratitude is vivid and bright. I have to be actively grateful for everything. Even the mundane is miraculous.
I am grateful to be alive. Several times a day, I create a voluntary break, a complete cessation of activity. In this stillness, I place my hand on my heart, just to feel its steady beat. I’m grateful for my toes that can move and my pulse that can, well, beat. I am grateful for this life and this light in me.
I can’t, I don’t want to let this light get stuck and stuck in me. I have to reach out and push it, like spreading butter on a bun. (Ah, I can still smell and taste the taste of my grandma’s homemade buns!)
Digging into the deepest crevices of our gratitude requires determined intention. A simple act. A benevolent gesture. A voluntary break. As you sit down for dinner tonight, push yourself beyond the word “gratitude.” Spread the word out into the world with your actions, thoughts, and behavior – because that’s where gratitude really lies.
Gratitude lives in the act itself.
Kristin Clark Taylor is an author, editor and journalist. She is a member of the USA TODAY Contributors Council.