Giving Thanks

“Life without thankfulness is devoid of love and passion.  Hope without thankfulness is lacking in fine perception.  Faith without thankfulness lacks strength and fortitude.  Every virtue divorced from thankfulness is maimed and limps along the spiritual road.”  — John Henry Jowett

As a child, I was taught the importance of manners.  My parents often said, “There are essential words that one must learn to use in an appropriate format.”  These terms — please, thank you, and you are welcome – are the niceties that should be practiced by young and old alike.

Although these expressions were routinely used in my childhood home, I never fully comprehended their significance until now.  At this point in my life, expressing my appreciation holds greater meaning than just a response for a kind gesture or a gift bestowed.  These social graces have become more of a spiritual passage than a pleasantry expressed.  This important aspect helps promote a more positive mindset.  These words now contain a greater meaning about living a life filled with gratitude and taking the time to convey the heartfelt sentiment of thankfulness to one and all.

In the past, when I have allowed bitterness to take hold, I seemed to forget the blessings bestowed.  Instead of focusing on that which is good, I delved into a place of negativity.  This switch in perspective blocked me from radiating positive thoughts that enhanced my understanding of giving thanks for all things great and small.  Instead this acrimony permeated the best parts of me — those of my heart and soul.  Over time, it took great effort to move past this phase of rancor and find a healing approach to uplift my self-imposed state of limbo.  As time has marched on, an attitude of gratitude has become my new mantra.

As the holiday season continues, it provides me with the opportunity to call to mind all that I am thankful for.  When I acknowledge all the blessings, I have to stop and smile in recognition.  Not only from the standpoint of owning a lovely home, a beautiful garden, a vehicle, or fine clothes, but of all that encompasses an amazing lifespan.  It is now easier for me to recognize the significance of basking in the sun or admiring a moonlit night.  Or of delighting in flowers that embroider the earth with their brilliant colors while birds chirp their melodious refrains.  I no longer take for granted the laughter of a child at play.  For in it, I have found my own joy rekindled.

As I gather around the table with those I hold most dear, I recollect the humble origins and purpose of the first Thanksgiving.  A gathering to give thanks for the bounty of family, friends, and the offering of fellowship.  So in this season of thanksgiving, I give thanks for all the marvelous wonders that have graced my life.  In recognizing all that is good, I have been able to once again embrace an improved outlook on life.

Memories Light the Corners of My Mind

"A dad is a son's first hero and a daughter's first love." -Author Unknown

“A dad is a son’s first hero and a daughter’s first love.”
-Author Unknown

Today would have been my dear old dad’s 90th birthday. I awoke this morning with him on my mind. Initially, I felt sad remembering his passing, but it was not long before the sadness dissipated. The melancholy feeling was replaced by wonderful memories that lit the corners of my mind. I recalled my childhood filled with wonder and joy–his constant presence in the lives of Mom, my siblings, and me–and all of the occasions that allowed us to share in our time together. The spring afternoons when we danced in the rain and rolled in the front yard filled with small ponds of mud. The summer days spent at the river’s edge basking in the sun and learning how to swim.  The crisp days of autumn, jumping in the mounds of leaves that had fallen from the trees. And the winter nights, skating across the ice at the local park and then nestling against Dad to keep warm by the fire pit. Those were the days to treasure and the ones which remain cherished memories contained within my heart.

When I contemplate the lessons learned from my father, I vividly recall his ability to translate ineffable concepts into the simplest of terms. His belief in God, his love of his family, and his integrity all provided grounding to balance our lives. His devout Catholic upbringing gave him the ability to utilize his beliefs as part of daily life. The life he built for himself and his family gave us the opportunity to watch, listen, and learn.  As we grew into adulthood, these principles guided our daily practices. Under his tutelage, we flourished and became the individuals he expected us to be.

Like many Dads, mine was not a perfect man. He was, however, a very good one. Although he made his share of mistakes, he found a path to redemption and practiced what he preached.  His disciplinary style was swift and stern in its approach, but he always found the time to explain why he had responded to our ill-behavior in such a manner. He would relate the importance that his children understood accountability for misbegotten deeds and responsibility to make things right again.

This tribute to Dad is not meant to idolize him, but rather, to articulate my admiration for the role he played in not only my life, but the countless others that he touched with his kind and caring ways.  His role in this life was multifaceted.  He was a son, a brother, a husband, a father, a friend, a businessman and a teacher. He served honorably during the events of World War II. When he returned home after serving his country, he attended college and obtained a degree in education.  There among the children, he taught school and coached football, counting himself not only as an educator and trainer, but as mentor to those who sought his guidance.  To them, he became a tutor, a protector, and a surrogate parent.  Many have attested to how his acts of kindness inspired their ability to move from a negative lifestyle to a positive manner of behavior.

As these memories cascade along the recesses of my mind, I am touched by how rapidly they translate to feelings of gratitude. In these recollections, I recall Dad’s ability to illuminate a room with the mere twinkle of his eye or his warm smile. He seemed to possess an energy that made all who were present feel safe and protected. His spirit was both mindful and playful, yet comforting in some inexplicable way.  It somehow encircled the room much like the memories of Dad that have made their home in the spaces of my mind.

Giving thanks this day, for the gift of a good man I called “Dad.”