Gratitude

Easter is over though we are still in the liturgical Easter Season, and hopefully, winter is over even though it is possible that we could still see a flake or two.  We are now much closer to watching the carrots grow.  Actually, we don’t ever plant this early, but it has been tempting to do so with the warmer days and peepers peeping.    We’ve experienced our usual spring MUD SEASON.  That often means closing off the east end of our driveway because it has no solid gravel base and tends to become slithery.  This year we decided to improve things via a load of gravel.  Hopefully it will pack firmly down into our clay and prevent the muddy, sliding ruts that come with the spring thaw.

As I looked through some old pictures recently, they took me back a few years —- well, quite a few years!   And I thought of the many people who have been part of who I am now.   Of course, my parents had immeasurable influence.  Each of my good friends certainly has had impact on me (the Pegnorans, Spencer Singers, etc.), and some continue to do so even from a distance.  Several teachers, one or two professors and other family members all made a difference in how I think and why I feel as I do about many things.   An older friend of my mother’s always treated me like a real person even though I was a youngster; I’ve never forgotten how that felt, and I try to treat children that way now.  A youth group leader expanded my horizons by asking some hard questions; she made us think about possible racial biases, about how we view individuals in need and she was interested in what our teenage theology looked like.  

We’ve had some difficult days, learning of serious illnesses and even deaths of friends from school days, and it is good to remember how those individuals have touched my life.  I expect we all struggled in different ways in our growing up years.   School is seldom an easy adventure, and those who were kind and affirming are remembered forever.   I can go back through my yearbook, and be cognizant of how much good I remember from most of the people I knew even a little.  Of course there were one or two who I’d not be enthusiastic about meeting again.  But who knows —- we’ve all changed in the ensuing sixty years.  Each friend represents a world to us; a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.”*

 Perhaps, in our daily lives, we don’t think much about the effect of our words and behavior on the world at large.  Sometimes it just feels exemplary to get through the day.   But daily, we have contact with people of diverse sorts, many unexpectedly.   Often the people who have made a difference are not teachers in the usual sense.  They aren’t scheduled into my calendar. Mostly they have been people who serendipitously entered my life at just the right moment; neighbors, fellow-church members, co-workers, a store clerk or casual acquaintance.  They offered whatever I desperately needed at that time whether it was affirmation, ideas, comfort or actual assistance.  Often, they weren’t even aware that they were the answer to my inner shout-out for help.  This is a good reason to be very careful about making quick judgments, for we never know what pain someone else may be in or how the most unlikely person will affect our lives. It behooves us to be kind.   I think we simply don’t realize the impact any of us might have on another, and ultimately, on ourselves.   Happiness is a perfume; you can’t pour it on somebody else without getting a few drops on yourself.**”    Just a bit of awareness makes it possible for each of us to pass on the fragrance of goodness and caring.   The world very much needs both.

I’ve been watching a series of videos on the computer called “Broken Brain.”*** It is a functional medicine perspective on all health and how, specifically, brain health is connected to what we eat, how we socialize, and how active we are.  I covered a couple of pages with notes for, of course, there were many recommendations for changes in diet, meditation, exercise and attitude.  But the following thoughts seemed to me to be a fine place to begin even before those other changes.  I think that if we lived out these five behaviors, our health would improve even without more vegetables and less sugar.  

  1. Start a gratitude journal and look each day for those wonderful, sometimes small, things in our lives.
  2. Pause before meals and be thankful for the food before us — for those who raised it and for its roots in creation of this world.
  3. Take a walk —- every day if possible.  It doesn’t have to be a long or energetic walk; just getting outside and moving our bodies will be good medicine.
  4. Each day make a point of telling someone (or several someones) that you love or appreciate them in your life.
  5. Do something kind each day without waiting for thanks.

I have a feeling that if these became habits, we would find a shift in our attitudes and more peace within.  This healthier thinking is said to cut down on inflammation and immune dysfunction.  Wouldn’t it be interesting to test out??

Soon we will be heading south — well, not too far south; only to southern Virginia to visit family.  My suggestions above may be put to the test for I always find it challenging to travel down traffic-filled Rt. 81.   When we arrive at our destination, however, it is well worth the attitudinal stress.  We can look out over the Blue Ridge foothills and watch the vultures soar and hear woodpeckers and bird song instead of traffic sounds.  We will visit friends and enjoy our family and be grateful for new places and things to do.  We will be there in time to see our granddaughters dress for a formal dance arranged by the large home-school group in which they participate.  The expectation is for good southern manners and semi-formal dress.    If all goes well in the alteration, our oldest granddaughter is wearing a dress that I wore in college.  I like recycling things and that dress is made of very pretty fabric.  I expect seeing her in it will trigger all sorts of nostalgia.

We began this essay with Easter and mud.  I expect that is a fair metaphor for our lives in general; rejoicing and despairing and then rejoicing again.  If we could only remember when we are in the depths that the sun will shine again!  I’m looking forward to more time outside and doing wonderful things in the garden.  I just heard on the news that the bears are out of hibernation.  We were fortunate last year; one passed through but none remained to lounge on our gazebo steps nor did they destroy the bird feeders.  We’ll see this year!!

Have a fine rest-of-April and may you have daffodils and violets for May Day.

Carol may be reached at: carol42wilde@htva.net.

Also — a note: the next essay will be a few days late since, for those few days, I won’t have access to my computer.  So expect it just after Mother’s Day. 

*Anais Nin—French-Cuban -American diarist, essayist, novelist.  1903-1977. And thanks to Colin Weichenthal for finding it for me.

**James Van Der Zee— American photographer known especially for photographing Afro-American New Yorkers.  He was a major influence in the Harlem Renaissance.  1886-1983

***Dr. Mark Hyman, “The Broken Brain” series of videos.

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