If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is “thank you”, it will be enough. – Meister Eckhart
Recently, C has been having a problem sleeping thanks to a scary book that his brother had brought home from the library. I told him that he just needed to think about happy things as he was drifting off to sleep. He said, I can’t think of any happy things. WHAT?! There are so many things to be happy about, I told him. So I started rattling off the biggies: his family, his friends, his pets, black-and-white his beloved stuffed animal…but I could see from his expression that this just wasn’t doing it for him. Then I remembered the book: 14,000 Things to Be Happy About. C was intrigued and a bit skeptical. 14,000 things? We got the book from my room and we got him all snuggled into his bed and I began to read them. I skipped around finding the ones he would like the most: catching fireflies, popsicles, puppy breath, waffles, riding the same roller coaster over and over again, roasting marshmallows, lying in the grass watching the clouds and naming the shapes you see… a little smile played on his lips as his eyelids got heavier and heavier and I kept reading, occasionally making up my own just for him. And in my head, I thought: this moment.
It was one of the best moments we have ever had, just he and I. I was so happy knowing I had calmed my son’s fears and been able to show him how the “ordinary” things in life are blessings. I was truly grateful that the author of the book thought, hey! I’m going to start writing down all the things that make me happy to think about. And I was grateful for the person who bought it for me who thought, hey! I know someone who can appreciate this. And I was grateful that I was able to share it with my son and create what has now become a little ritual for him: reading a list of happy things before he goes to sleep.
Since it is Thanksgiving, it seemed only natural that I try to make a list of all my blessings. But I pulled out the list trick last week and I figured doing a list of the top 10 things I’m grateful for would be a dud. Plus, how could I possibly select the top 10 out of all the blessings in my life? I would have to write and write and write and then choose out thousands (and yes, I think I could come up with at least 14,000 of my own) which ones were worthy of being in the top ten. It would be way too difficult, and take way too long for the purpose of this blog, but maybe I will try it some day. I have a feeling I would be surprised at what would vie for the top spots after the “biggies”, and maybe even before the biggies. Can I really say that I am more grateful for my car than I am for being able to watch the sunrise over the ocean?
I mean, the top two or three are probably the same for all parents, right? We are grateful for our children, grateful for their health, grateful for our own health so that we can spend time with them. But past that there are so many “little” things; how the sun feels after being cooped up inside because of nasty weather, the sound of ocean waves crashing on the beach, having a deep belly laugh with old friends, watching the brilliant colors of an autumn sunset. I have definitely come to a place in my life where I am just as grateful for these little things as I am for the big ones. Because in reality, it is the little things that actually make life worthwhile. For me, it is not just about being thankful for having family and friends and good health, not only that I have a job and a home and car (although I am extremely grateful for all of these). It is about the hugs and the laughs we share, singing songs at the top of our lungs and dancing until we are dizzy. It is about snuggling under blankets and reading our favorite books. It is about helping a stranger and kissing the person who makes your heart race. Breathing in the smell of cookies baking or sipping hot coffee on a cold morning. It is about treasuring all of those moments and being grateful to be alive simply to experience them.
Now, I won’t pretend that I don’t sometimes wish for things that I don’t have. There are times where I get caught up in the pain and sadness and loneliness that are also a part of life. That’s only human nature. I do try to set a good example for the boys, however, by recognizing and acknowledging the amazing gifts we have around us every day, even if there is a part of my heart that is longing for something else. And no matter what, every night I thank God for the day that I was able to live and for all the moments I got to experience. And every morning I thank him again for giving me another chance to practice grace and gratitude.
C- showing off his Thanksgiving belly in 2007