It’s easy for me to go through the day without stopping to think about gratitude, possibly because it’s overwhelming for me to stop and think about gratitude. I am almost impossibly ‘fortunate’ or ‘blessed.’ I feel like I’ve won the reincarnation lottery and I’m not quite sure what I must have done or who I must have been in a past life to deserve this enchanted life that I lead. With so much poverty, carnage, sexism, racism, hunger, disease and turmoil in this world, I don’t know how I’ve managed to come up unscathed. Had I been born in Europe 70 years ago, I likely would have perished in a concentration camp. Had I been born 300 years ago in this country, I likely would have been a slave. Had I been born now, in a country plagued by war, to a community stricken by ebola, to a family that lost their home…I don’t stop to think about gratitude because the list is so long… the ways in which I am fortunate are so deep, but alas, it’s also important to reflect.
When I was ten years old, my family went on a trip to Indonesia. We were visiting a temple in Jakarta and one of my clearest memories from that journey was the tour guide explaining to us that in his culture, the worst thing one could be reincarnated as is a frog — because frogs have big bellies and all they eat are flies, so they are never satiated. I don’t know why that image stuck in my head all these years. Perhaps because at age ten I had never given much thought to the afterlife or the idea that how I behave in this life can affect who (or what!) I am in the next…and perhaps the idea of flies being the only item on the meal plan hit home. None-the-less, regardless of my grown-up feelings about what happens after-death, I do believe that how I behave in this life can deeply affect what happens when I’m gone.
I need to think about gratitude more often because it keeps me humble. It reminds me that just as easily as all these gifts were given to me they can be taken away. Life is so fragile, so tenuous, such a gift…and in moments when I’m annoyed, sad, frustrated or angry I have to remember how good I have it: my health and the health of my dear ones, my incredible family, a creative career that brings me joy, a roof over my head in a city that I love, and a satiated belly.
So this Thanksgiving, while I try to not over-eat– I will think about all the people in the world whose bellies are never satiated. And then, I will try and follow those thoughts with more action and more commitment to affect positive change in this world. Because gratitude is a great start, but it’s the actions that follow the feelings of gratitude that are most meaningful.
I am thankful for you.