Posted by: Lisa Pampuch | November 20, 2005

Gratitude: Parent of all virtues

“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.” ~ Author William A. Ward

Although Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, you won’t find so much as a fall-colored wreath on my front door. No turkey-shaped pottery will grace any part of my home’s interior. Besides my wholehearted and enthusiastic endorsement of the concept of gratitude that Thanksgiving honors, I also greatly appreciate the fact that the holiday hasn’t been overrun by the crass materialism that suffuses so many other celebrations. The day after Thanksgiving, I’ll grant, is another matter, but I still have the fourth Thursday in November to appropriately honor this essential virtue.

“Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others.” ~ Roman Statesman Marcus Tullius Cicero

This year, as we approach my favorite holiday, however, I find myself in a bittersweet mood. I’m looking forward to turkey, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie, and especially the formal opportunity to count my blessings. Like most people, my family tops my thankfulness list.

Yet, as a devoted mother, I’m mindful of those in our community who’ve lost a child this year. Even here in South Valley, families have lost sons and daughters to accident, to illness, to suicide and to war.

To those who have lost a son or daughter, no matter the age or the cause, I offer whatever small measure of comfort my deepest sympathy and sincerest empathy can provide. I wish you strength to count your blessings despite your sorrow, time to reminisce, and a circle of friends and family to support you, especially during this holiday season.

“Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” ~ Author Melody Beattie

My bittersweet attitude and awareness of the losses of others makes me even more grateful that my children are healthy and happy, and makes me fearful for all the dangers that lurk in the world. This Thanksgiving, I will give thanks that I’ve had another year to enjoy my children, and I’ll try to remember that there are no guarantees for the future. Throughout the coming year, I hope that knowledge will give me an extra measure of patience when my children are doing their best to make me forget my spirit of gratitude.

Because, after all, what practical good is the Thanksgiving holiday or gratitude, really, if it doesn’t have an impact on the way I live? In fact, now that I think about it, Thanksgiving is really a much more appropriate time for resolutions than New Year’s Day. Maybe we’ll start a new Thanksgiving tradition at our house of thinking of ways to turn our spoken thanks into active gratitude.

“Thankfulness is the beginning of gratitude. Gratitude is the completion of thankfulness. Thankfulness may consist merely of words. Gratitude is shown in acts.” ~ Philosopher Henri Frederic Amiel

When as many as 40 percent of Africans live on less than one dollar a day, it’s hard to imagine that anyone who has the means to read my words cannot find something in their life that’s worthy of gratitude. But we don’t have to look across the globe to find those less fortunate, we need only to look in our own community. Our neighbors struggle with illness, with fear, with loneliness, with sorrow, with poverty, with bigotry, with worry and more every day.

For each of those burdens I do not bear, as well as for the bountiful blessings I enjoy, I am grateful. But that’s not enough. I must also do more to ease the burdens of those around me, and teach my children to do the same.

“We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.” ~ Author Thornton Wilder

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