Wednesday, November 22, 2017

This Thanksgiving, I’m trying micro-gratitude

A mother of young children recently shared this story with me about her favorite part of the day, and it certainly wasn’t what I expected to hear. “When I strap both my kids in their carseats, I close the door and walk to the driver’s seat, and that’s it, that’s what I try to enjoy. Because everyone is safe and secure, and I get to walk those few steps knowing that they’re okay, but really, really, enjoying the quiet.”

At first, I thought her story was just about the saddest thing I’d ever heard. How long does it take her to walk around that minivan – 15 seconds? And that’s it, this tiny moment, that’s her highlight? This is just something that’s too small to be grateful for, I decided.

And then I thought again. I wondered about myself on my grumpiest, crabbiest, most entitled-acting days, and thought it was likely that I didn’t spend even one second being grateful, let alone 15. I thought about how this young mother had managed to find the tiniest moment of blessing in an otherwise raucously chaotic life.              

On second thought, I realized, this wasn’t a sad story after all. Once I knew that, it was clear I needed to find my own moments of what might be called micro-gratitude--moments that seem so insignificant, and pass by so quickly, that I had barely noticed them before.

This season, as trees have been laid bare and the days have gotten darker, I’ve been trying to pay attention to those slivers of sacredness that are right in front of my eyes. Instead of the rote repetition of the headlining gratitude all-stars--family, friends, food, blah, blah blah—I’ve tried to fix my eyes on split second wonders of just-for-now blessings. It might be something as fleeting and mundane as lugging a few more books to fill up the Little Free Library I received as a birthday present in September. As I stack up the spy thrillers and chapter books and knock-knock joke compendiums, I imagine the joy on the faces of people who will revel in coming across just the title they needed most, without ever realized it.

Or, as I walk along Minnehaha Parkway on my way to errands or exercise class, I’ve been forcing myself to stop—a full-on, no-fidgeting-allowed stop—to watch the creek, forcing myself to count to ten. “Pay attention,” I tell myself. “It’s all going by as fast as this water is passing, so spend ten seconds to take it in.”

If your family is of the sort that’s inclined to go around the table and say what each member is thankful for this holiday, I urge you to follow the lead of that young mom and split the atom of gratitude to its finest possible point. Do it until you can come up with the tiniest, most precious parcel: on the family’s newest member, the crescent of an infant’s thumbnail; the one perfect spoonful of your mom’s most delicious dish; the warmth of the dishwater on your hands when you volunteer to be the one to clean up this year, no prodding needed. 

All those milliseconds of gratitude might not add up to any great insight for you this Thanksgiving, but they might help you get a little closer to the truth: all we have is today, and all we can be grateful for is what’s happening this very second, and that’s reason enough.  

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