Advertisement

Fellowship of Saints and Sinners

Fellowship of Saints and Sinners

Thankful Lists: How To Go Cold Turkey With Complaining

This Thanksgiving, I’m reminded again of Helen at the assisted living center who regularly tells me she hates her life and wants to die.

From a pragmatic standpoint, it doesn’t really help that Helen doesn’t believe in a God who loves her- a God, in short, to Whom one might give thanks.

Recently, though, Helen has taken to following my advice (which is amazing in itself, because my own children only rarely do this- take my advice, that is).

Advertisement

Every day now, as she heads to bed, Helen compiles a list of five things she’s thankful for in the preceding day.

At first, this discipline was gruesomely painstaking.

When I checked in with Helen after a week of her trying this out, just to see how the whole thankfulness thing was working, she read me her list as if it were her own one-line obituary and she had a bad case of amnesia.  At one point, she broke down sobbing, clasping her face in her hands, and moaned, “I hate my life!”

I’ve been there.  Maybe you have, too.

Helen’s reading went something like this:

“Monday: Grateful for my room, the food here, “Golden Girls,” sleep, ?”

“Tuesday: Grateful for my room, the food here, “Golden Girls,” sleep, ?”

Advertisement

“Wednesday: Grateful for my room, the food here, “Golden Girls,” sleep, ?”

By now you’re catching my drift: Helen was miserable.

We decided she would work on making her thankful list more specific.  Instead of “food,” why not include the actual textures and tastes of her favorite dish? Instead of “room,” why not notice the feelings of “home” and the sounds of “aloneness” that comfort her?

The last time I saw Helen, she was doing better.  She was still making her daily thankful list.  This time, though, Helen was laughing.  She even thanked me with genuine gratitude for my prayers.  (On past occasions my mention of anything “religious” would elicit only a bitter guffaw.)

Advertisement

No perfect ending here, mind you.  Helen, like many of us probably, struggles with the recurring dreariness and darkness of this world and her own brokenness.  Her lament is one of having made mistakes that now in her twilight years she cannot fix or undo and often regrets.

Still, Helen, like all of us, is very much a work in progress; and in the blooming of her gratitude, she is, I believe, on a path that leads to God.

This Thanksgiving my husband and I have been making our lists, paging through old Bon Appetit magazines, madly preparing, as many of you, for a big feast.  But I’ve decided to make a different list.  A thankful list.  And here it is:

Today I’m thankful for:

  • the love of neighbors with whom to celebrate this day
  • a genuinely good man with whom to share these past seventeen years of my life, who, in addition to being the dad who coaches his son’s soccer team, actually enjoys cooking the Thanksgiving dinner and makes a damn-good turkey (Confession: I’ve never made a turkey.)
  • two children who hold me accountable to be a better person
  • the changing colors of fall outside my window as I write this
  • simply being alive, stomach bug and all

 

What’s your thankful list?  Care to share it? And, Happy Thanksgiving, by the way! 

Previous Posts

3 Quasi-Spiritual Lessons from the Ashley Madison Scandal
For those of us saints and sinners who even remotely have been following last week’s Ashley Madison scandal, I can think of at least three lessons it offers (and you may have more, in which case feel free to leave them below): 1. Chances ...

posted 6:14:59pm Aug. 27, 2015 | read full post »

John Oliver vs. Televangelists and Their "Big Seed" Prosperity Gospel
If you've not seen it, you must: John Oliver on "Last Week Tonight" offered the most brilliantly funny rebuke of televangelists and the prosperity gospel I've seen to date. Oliver doesn't mince words, including the four-letter ones, in blasting ...

posted 2:21:12am Aug. 18, 2015 | read full post »

How the Latest Revelations Re: ISIS' Systemized Sexual Violence Against Girls Remind Me I Am Not a Pacifist
As if ISIS had not already convinced us enough of its total depravity ... the latest revelations by The New York Times —(be forewarned, they are disturbing to read) — remind me why I am not a pacifist. As if turning small boys into child ...

posted 5:54:37pm Aug. 14, 2015 | read full post »

Mustard Seed Faith and a Mustard Seed Kingdom of God, Via Mary Oliver
Last ...

posted 1:47:32pm Aug. 12, 2015 | read full post »

A Beloved Lion, The Dentist Who Trophy-Hunted Him, and the Power of Shame
[caption id="attachment_5637" align="alignleft" width="300"] 13-year-old Cecil was the beloved resident of Hwange National Park, where earlier this July he was baited and killed for fun by Walter Palmer, DDS. The GPS collar Cecil was wearing ...

posted 2:54:27pm Jul. 29, 2015 | read full post »

Advertisement


Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.