Great Aunt Naomi was on a roll now. I was driving her and her sister Ruby up to our vacation spot in Minnesota, and Naomi was keeping me entertained (and alert) with tales of their childhood on the farm.
"One Christmas our father snuck out of the house and knocked on the front door. Mother told us, 'There's Santa Claus! Go look what he brought you.' Well, I opened the door and there was a pack of playing cards lying there, and I said, 'Well, heck! That's the pack we've been playing with!'"
This was the standard Christmas, except for the years when the local schoolteacher boarded with them. The extra $16 they got for rent each month enabled their parents to buy practical gifts for Naomi and her seven siblings.—mostly clothes and shoes.
"We got oranges at the church," Aunt Naomi said. "We each got an orange at Christmas time."
She said this with pride, and why shouldn't she? I felt a bit envious that she grew up in a world where she was grateful for oranges and unworn shoes and toys that were pre-owned . . . by her. Now, I could imagine getting over the loss of presents at Christmas. If I had no gifts come December, I would be confused, but it wouldn't rank as a crisis. Yet, there's a tremendous difference between acceptance and gratitude. This is where I fall short.
My life is a happy one. I have a lot to be crazy grateful for. And you will never catch me banging my head on the wall asking why God chose me to endure this nightmare of a life. Even so, I have fallen into the disgusting habit of viewing my life as some sort of limbo. I am in transition . . . in transition to a full-time writing career, on the verge of meeting someone wonderful, on the cusp of a brand new life, a brand new me, a brand new era of gratitude that will arise naturally out of the miracle of finally having the life I dream of.
If I'm going to be honest with myself, however, I need to acknowledge that gratitude is not something that shows up naturally when goals are attained. Or if it does, it doesn't stay long. Life is, in many ways, a series of transitions. The acquisition of one goal paves the way for the formation of another.
So it's time to give up on gratitude as a natural phenomenon and acknowledge that it is a lifestyle achieved through patient cultivation. I may have to offer up a few forced thank you's each morning when I wake and find that God has left the same playing cards on my doorstep yet again. But with practice, I will finally learn to understand that familiarity does not change the blessing that they are.
- Abigail Wurdeman