Sunday, November 27, 2005

On gratitude

Okay, so yeah, I'm about three days late with the official Thanksgiving giving of thanks. I'll have to chalk that up to a serious bout of turkey coma, followed by a Saturday of football that was not to be disturbed for the sake of blogging.

But last night, as my brother and I were driving home from the game and I was in a particularly thankful mood, I settled down to think about the whole gratitude thing. It's really easy to slap down the usual Thanksgiving dreck about being grateful for family and health and prosperity. Not that that sort of thing doesn't count, mind you - my family is precious to me beyond the telling of it, I really am grateful for my health (particularly when I'm doped up to the point that I'm actually feeling healthy), and while my prosperity is still really at the how-many-ways-can-I-prepare-ramen stage (so much for that whole "grownup with a job" thing), I appreciate the fact that there are people living sub-ramen lifestyles, people for whom a leak-free one-bedroom apartment with electric heat and a stove for cooking ramen would be like a day at the Ritz. But those aren't once-a-year graces. If you're only giving thanks for those things one day out of the year, you're missing out, because they're real and crucial, and you should be thanking whatever power you recognize for the blessings you have.

What about the stuff that's not mentioned in your average ABC Thanksgiving special? It can be hard to dig up. Not to slap a great big downer into the middle of what could be an entirely uplifting post, but the spirit of our country right now is absolute shite. Disasters take place, and the voices of people who want to help actually have to fight to be heard over the voices of people who want to blame and/or abandon the victims. Our government is currently debating whether or not it's okay to torture people as a matter of policy. Politicians and their loony mindless followers stand up to loudly profess their love of Jesus Christ, then turn around and berate the poor for not having the initiative to get themselves rich. I find myself wondering sometimes - on a national and/or global scale, what in God's name do we have to be thankful for?

And then I come home for a long weekend. My mom, in case you haven't picked up from earlier posts, is my best friend and my inspiration. She donates everything from her money to her possessions to her own personal blood to those who need them, she gives her time to deliver Meals On Wheels or administer communion to shut-ins, and when she's not doing that, she's looking for something else to do for someone else. Mom is how I ended up at Miss Mattie's house on Friday, helping my parents and my brother staple contractor's plastic around her screened porch to keep the heat in.

Mom doesn't look for recognition for the things she does; she thinks it cheapens the act (so don't go telling her I've posted about it). All she really wants is for other people to look around, to be aware of all of the things that can be done and the people who need help, and then take the time to do it. She's told me that what she really wants is for fortunate people, people like us who have even a little bit, to judge people not on what they've done but on what they need, to look beyond the reason for a person's situation and see a solution to it. Jesus, Mom says, never turned anyone away who sincerely wanted help, regardless of their situation, and if we're going to claim to be Christians, we're obliged to follow His lead.

The very existence of people like my mother - and my father, who takes in probably more low-income patients than he can afford, and my brother, who would be embarrassed if I started going on about his good deeds and claims to do them out of Catholic guilt anyway, and so many friends and acquaintances - steadies me when I start to really freak out about the condition of the world. No matter what is going on out there, there are at least a few, more than a few, people in here who actually want to do good for other people, and beyond that want to entice other people to do good for other people. Nothing we do today can ruin what we have the potential to do in the future, as long as there are people around who think about more than themselves and who make the rest of us do the same. As long as there's one person realizing that a world exists outside of herself, then there's hope. And if all you have is hope, you have a lot to be thankful for.

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