[EDITOR'S NOTE: We asked readers to share their holiday themes involving gratitude during the long Thanksgiving weekend. We received many stories from people in the Valley and have chosen to share a few over the next few days.]
Twenty years ago I walked out of a less-than-good marriage (being polite and not wanting to be overdramatic).
We had a nice ranch house with a simple screened-in back porch where you could sit and listen and watch it rain. I didn’t need or want much — well, not much other than emotional peace.
It was just a couple of weeks before Thanksgiving when I walked out. Of course, the walk out was planned and organized because I am that kind of personality.
Two of the kids lived out of town and were back for the holiday which was always huge with their dad’s side of the family. And now, they were back in town and shocked at what their previously mild mother had done. They were also shocked by the crappy second-floor apartment that had a 30-year-old rocker, two lamps, two old family travel trunks, a borrowed bed, a borrowed kitchen table and chairs and not much else.
I left it all behind.
They all gathered that Thanksgiving morning in that crappy apartment still shocked by my walking out. Even my dad showed up. We sat awkwardly and tried to talk and not talk about the elephant in the shabby room.
And then — they all left! And I was left alone, really alone, for the first time in my 50-year life. Gut-wracking, wretchedly alone except for a frozen turkey dinner.
As if the frozen food was not salty enough, I cried into it. And cried. And cried. And then I remembered reading about making a gratitude journal.
The goal was to write five things a day for which to be grateful. I had about 20 gratitude items listed by the time I was done.
I had a lot and so did my kids. We all had food, shelter, jobs, cars and each other. That tradition of daily gratitude has gotten me through a great many desert walks. My attitude shifted permanently that day.
This Thanksgiving, as we do our gratitude journals, let’s take some time to contemplate how many empty seats there are at this year’s table. Count the seats vacated by death and distance.
Let’s look at how many people depend on the Rescue Mission, or Dorothy Day house or Our Community Kitchen. Let’s look at how we can help.
How many people are working longer and longer hours saving lives at hospitals? How many people are on back-breaking overtime hours mopping the floors and cleaning the toilets in the hospital?
After writing out our five gratitude items, let’s follow it up with learning about five soul-sucking, minimum wage jobs that have no health care or paid time off and maybe discover some simple things we can do to make their lives easier.
Perhaps that exercise will help somewhat diminish our craving for a new car or truck or phone or whatever bright-colored moving object catches our attention.
— Pat Diamond is a life-long Valley resident. And like the rest of us, she is learning to cope with COVID-19 while seeking gratitude and grace in a wounded and fractured world.