Mercy Me! I've got work to do.

Mercy Me — I've got work to do! making the world a better place – starting with me.


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The problem of gratitude

It’s been decades since I have been in grammar school, so when I think of Thanksgiving, pilgrims or Indians don’t generally come to mind. I think of whose bringing what, where am I supposed to go, when will I get my Christmas shopping done and why, oh why, do men watch so much football.

Back in 1621, there were no parades, no Black Friday circulars, and no grocery stores to buy the bounty. There were just groups of people from different cultures celebrating thanks.

I do think I would have liked to be an Indian though – to wear my hair in braids, with a papoose of babies in the front and bow and arrow on my back. I think that would have been super cool. It appeals to me so much more than being a pilgrim girl and wearing one of those confining bonnets tied around my neck.

But whether you wear braids or bonnets or even flat iron your hair, most of us celebrate Thanksgiving. It makes us feel good to count each one of our many blessings from hot coffee to warm hugs, and having an excuse to eat copious amounts of food is like adding gravy to the mashed potatoes. It just makes everything that much better.

I only wish the spirit of this holiday lasted more than a day – that I could remember to be thankful all year long

But somehow, I usually forget.

I tried to start a gratitude journal once. I committed to write down three things everyday that made me thankful. On the days that I did it, I never wrote just three. There was no way I could limit myself when so many came to mind.  By the time I wrote three blessings, three more came to mind and then six, and then nine. At some point I realized math was happening- that gratitude was increasing exponentially and that the more I acknowledged my thankfulness the more there was to acknowledge.

I wrote about such moments as holding my nephew, going on a trip with my husband, coming home, lunch with my mom, walking with my friend, a song that reminded me of being pregnant with my first born and for times when his younger brother gently playing with my hair.

I also wrote some dubious things on my gratitude list that included sweating, hiding under the covers (no doubt from myself) and cleaning mildew.

It didn’t matter that it sounded kind of hodge-podge. It mattered that I felt gratitude and it mattered more that I took a few measly minutes to acknowledge it.

If it were an algebra problem, and it is perplexing enough to be one, then the unknown in the equation would be if it was indeed so great, so magical to recognize all the things I had to be thankful for — then why did I quit?

It was the giant X in a problem that ultimately had a very simple answer – choice.

To know gratitude is a blessing in itself, but it doesn’t happen on its own. Like so much in life, it is a choice. It is a decision we make, time we take, and selfishness we forsake. (That has a nice rhyme to it, so don’t be surprised if it shows up in a rap song someday.)

But when we don’t take time to choose gratitude, we choose otherwise.

Perhaps the lyrics of the song Freewill by the rock band, Rush, say it best “If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.”

We have to choose to pause, to notice, and to acknowledge, otherwise by default, it seems we’ve made an entirely different choice. We inadvertently ignore the blessings of gratitude.

Each day we have the chance to notice all the abundance in our lives, all the beauty in nature and all the hope in humanity. 

It’s easy enough to make the choice on a day such as Thanksgiving when we are surrounded by food, family, and if you are a fan, you could even add football to that list. It’s the rest of the days that the choice of gratitude often gets left undecided.

I am thankful that the Indians and pilgrims chose gratitude and for the generations who followed them who kept the tradition thriving all the way into a new millennium, so that centuries later, I am reminded of my own choice.

The legacy of thanks is one that can expand into infinity, if we choose to decide, and if we don’t, well, we would do well to remember that we still have made a choice.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot to list the three things I am thankful for today.

  1. Sleeping cats
  2. Goodbye kisses
  3. No mildew to clean

 

And of course, each of you.

What are you thankful for today?


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My Peeps

Guess who has a birthday coming up?!  No! Not Beyonce!  Well, okay she does, but I am not talking about her or any other celebrity born in September — Pippa Middleton, Gwyneth Paltrow, Keanu Reeves or Harry Connick Jr.

Mercy me!  I am talking about my own birthday!

As it turns out, I am not going to be 40 forever.  Who knew?

I am actually excited about turning another year older, and not because I have avoided death for yet another year, although that’s kind of a nice bonus, but because of this space here where I have spent my 40th year sharing my journey doing corporal and spiritual works of mercy.

It’s hard to convey what this past year has meant to me.  So, I am not going to bother.  Not yet anyway.

Instead, I want to take a moment to thank a few people.

First, there is my friend Jeannette, who helped me with the design of the blog.  If I knew when I asked her to help me, how much I was truly asking, I assure you I would have never asked.  I didn’t know the first thing about setting up a blog and she patiently sat with me and helped create this site.  She absolutely hates recognition, and so I am hoping she will forgive me for thanking her in such a public way.  I won’t mention that she is incredibly bright, talented and kind because it would probably send her over the edge.  Instead, I will just say thank you for making this possible for me.  It has been an incredible blessing that you will forever be a part of.011

Remember, Jeannette, it is a work of mercy to forgive others.

Second, there is my mother who sort of inspired this space by telling me half in jest that I wasn’t good at doing works of mercy.  WTH?  Really? I have to be good at doing works of mercy?  It’s not enough that I didn’t end up on drugs, that I finished college, had a career, married, gave her grandchildren, go to weekly mass, and still call her despite the absurdity of saying things like that?

No, it’s not enough for her or, as it ends up, for me either.  Thank you for requiring more of me — especially when it comes to increasing my capacity to love and serve others as God has called each of us to do.  I can remember countless examples growing up of simple kindnesses that my mom did for others. Indeed, she is better at doing works of mercy than I will ever be.  But it was her spiritual work of mercy, to instruct the uninformed, that caused me to pause, reflect and begin this endeavor.267

Third, I want to thank my husband and children.  My husband has patiently listened to me read to him every post that I have written.  He has inserted semicolons and added commas on my behalf.  More importantly, he always listened to what I had to say beyond the post.  Over the course of this past year, I have said a lot, much of it repetitive.  This repetitiveness is not a result of early senility, but of my inability to grasp the disparity and suffering in our world which contrasts so sharply with the blessings in my life.  Thank you, Honey for listening to me lament every time – like it was the first time.114

I am going to sound like a proud mama bear here, so bear with me.  My children have been incredible with their willingness to volunteer often under very hot or uncomfortable circumstances.  Of course, I didn’t give them a choice, but neither did they complain.pulp

I learn so much from their unjaded hearts about unconditional love and acceptance.  The way they view the world – its simplicity, its limitless possibilities and its loving God makes me feel ageless and inspired.

I always tell my children, he who is last is first, so it’s fitting that my last thank you is for my dear friend, Helena.  I have jokingly referred to her as my editor because she has read and given input on every single post this year (except this one, SURPRISE!)  But really, she is a friend in the truest sense of the word.049

While I have known her since high school, it is not the duration of our friendship that makes it so special.  It is her.  It is the way she listens to me with compassion not judgement.  It is the way she encourages and believes in me.  It is the way she has sat quietly behind the scenes of this project as a virtual unknown, but whose support undeniably made it happen month after month until finally we are here at month 12.   Thank you for tirelessly cheering me, comforting me, and listening to me.  Your humility and unselfishness astounds me and your friendship blesses me.

Whew!  I am pretty sure if I was on one of those award shows saying all that, I would have been shooed off the stage like ten paragraphs ago.  And, I am sorry if that was terribly boring to read assuming you made it this far.  But really, one can take a journey by themselves, but not without encountering a fellow traveler.  These were mine and they refreshed me when I was ever weary.

With almost a month to go, I think of some words that Mother Theresa said.  “I’m a little pencil in the hand of a writing God, who is sending a love letter to the world.”

So, I am.  Except in my case, I’m not the pencil,   just a girl with a lap top.  Either way, it’s His story. He’s the true author. He’ll write it as He wants it to be told.  All I know, is that because He is the author, however it unveils itself will no doubt, have a happy ending.  Knowing this, I am assured that when the month ends I will have more to celebrate than a happy birthday.