Giving thanks


Gwyneth Shoecraft

At a particularly low point in my life, a helpful voice once told me to keep a journal by my bedside. In that journal made of old leather and tea-stained paper I was to write a gratitude list each and every morning before I rose from the comforts of my bed.

Being that I am much better at keeping bad habits than good ones, I only managed to write for a five-day streak. After those five pages, the journal entries dropped off into the oblivion of the many things I started with the intention to finish, but never got around to doing so.

The journal was later placed on my bookshelf, surrounded by my dear paperback friends. Over the years, its brown spine became unrecognizable, until it was simply another place to dust before visitors came to stay in my guest room.

But this week, on the early eve of a holiday that reminds us by its very name to be thankful, I decided to open up those dusty pages, and peruse my entries of what made me truly grateful at such a difficult time.

I had little memory of what those entries would be, but, feeling especially confident, I believed they would shine like pearls of wisdom from decades past.

It turns out, I was less articulate during those dark days. My entries, in their entirety, are as follows:
My family, my friends, my memories and this morning. Repeat.

Now, I had hoped these entries would guide me toward a deeper understanding of what makes me truly happy, and reignite my attitude of gratitude to carry me through the mid-November short days-long nights blues. And though I scoffed at my brevity and lack of detailed writing, those short and sweet entries did just that.

As I’ve grown over the years, and pulled into the light out of a tunnel of dark times, I find more and more things to be grateful for: a good grade, a smile from a stranger, the sun playing through the trees and warming my skin. Life, in all its glory, is full of little wonders and reasons to be grateful to be here.

But, when I get down to it in honest moments with myself, very little actually and truly affects me. Not much has changed since my days of short lists in old journals: I care about the people I love and the ability to keep waking up each morning in a world where they and I exist. Everything else didn’t make the gratitude list then, and it probably wouldn’t even now.

Though many other things in life bring me joy, gratitude is a special feeling reserved for those things and people for which I have reverence. Without them, my own personal community, I would not be able to appreciate the smaller pleasant surprises that have made my life a happy one. And for that I am truly grateful.