From Dr. Jane's Notebook
Thanksgiving: Deciding to be thankful
Thanksgiving is once again upon us. Traditionally, this is a time when family members
gather, spend time together, renew old ties and form new bonds. It is also an important
time to be thankful. We can adopt an attitude of thankfulness by reflecting on the past
and giving thought to the future. But sometimes, giving thanks is not as easy as it seems.
- Families are constantly evolving and changing. There are times when families lose
members, and times when new relatives join the family. As I write this article, I have
just come home from attending the funeral of my Uncle in Jacksonville, Florida. Upon
return, we learned of the loss of our friend, the esteemed professor Dr. Richard Jaeger.
Additionally, several other close friends lie desperately ill. Many would ask, Whats
there to be thankful for?
Thankfulness can lend a sense of balance to life when we most need it. Personally, I am
thankful that during the past year, I have attended more weddings than funerals, and I
have sent out more New Baby gifts than I have sent out condolence cards. Our lives are
constantly changing and unfolding. While we make many of our own choices, we are often
reminded that we are never fully in charge of what happens. Along the way, we experience
both grief and joy. To maintain a healthy perspective, we must take special notice of the
- It is easy to take life for granted. Most of us approach each day hoping that the
world will comply with our individual plans. As part of our human nature, when things are
functioning well, we tend to take them for granted. So long as our physical health is
good, many of us pay little attention to health. So long as family members seem happy, we
may pay little attention to their emotional health. But taking certain things for granted
is not a license to ignore our families. There will be times when the demands of family
and work are in conflict. At times such as these, maintaining an attitude of thankfulness
for our family and thankfulness for our career reduces that feeling of conflict.
- It is easy to whine and complain; it is harder to be cooperative. When things
fail to go our way, we often feel justifiably angry and justified in pushing others out of
our way. Consider the example of driving. Drivers have recently been made more aware of
how our driving habits impact the safety of others. Yet, faced with the fear of being
late, we may continue to run yellow traffic lights and drive as though we alone, own the
road. The more we justify our impatience with our busy schedules, the more we become
irritable when others get in our way and indignant when forced to wait our turn.
- It is easy to want what we do not have; harder to appreciate what we do have. We
can make ourselves feel deprived by comparing our life to the lives of others who we envy.
Like children, we may cry over the size of our piece of cake, while ignoring the fact that
others have none. We may judge other people based upon the size of their paycheck or link
our own self-worth to the acquisition of possessions. Needless to say, when we constantly
compare ourselves to others, it becomes more difficult to keep our priorities straight,
and easier to step out of bounds in pursuit of selfish desires.
- The problem of being human. Knowing that the gift of life is coupled with our
eventual death, each of us develops an attitude toward life. We decide whether we will be
optimistic or pessimistic. We decide whether we will count our assets or our losses. We
decide whether it is our job to make the world a better place, and whether it is okay to
leave messes behind for others to clean up. We can decide to help solve some of the
problems in our world, or leave them for others to solve.
As we prepare for Thanksgiving this year, consider the many things there are to be
thankful for in your life. Recently, a homeless gentleman approached a stranger who was
standing in line at a local soup kitchen. He asked the newcomer whether he had any spare
change. The newcomers eyes fell to the ground as he admitted that it had been a
difficult week and he had no money to spare. The homeless gentleman acknowledged the
newcomers despair and then gently reassured him, "well, at least you are
ęCopyright, 2000, Jane R. Rosen-Grandon. All rights reserved.
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