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Bam! Gratitude lessons from a child

It was Thanksgiving in Canada yesterday. 

I’m grateful for the combination of creative solitude and family celebration I enjoyed over the weekend.

I’m also grateful for past blogs to turn to after I used the creative solitude for other purposes, and the family celebration was way to fun to interrupt to write.

The boy I wrote about in this post from last year has grown up and he no longer follows this practice. I miss it! But no matter. He taught me a timeless lesson during that brief delightful phase of his childhood.


Monday evening is the regular library time for a father and a small boy. Those two are the highlight of my week.

At the time of their visit, I work in the room that houses the book drop. The murmur of their voices and the scraping sound of a step-stool being pulled into position comes to me through the slot. The child’s feet climb up one step on the stool and  another as he prepares for his book return ritual.

“Thank you, book. Good-bye,” he says to the first book. He pushes it through the slot. “Bam!” he shouts.

He performs this small ceremony for every book. He returns 10 to 15 books, on average, so his process takes some time. If there are people waiting behind him, he doesn’t adjust his pace; he savours his moment.

I stop whatever I’m doing and savour his moment too. I smile widely.

This child shows me:

  1. He respects and cherishes books.
  2. He expresses gratitude.
  3. He knows how to “be here now.”
  4. He celebrates each moment with a Bam!

Some lessons for all of us, from a child.

Bam!

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I’m also grateful for chocolate.

Thank you: Fair and softly goes far

From the Charter for Compassion Facebook page:

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We feel the influence of the United States of America here in Canada. When “sleeping with an elephant,” as former prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau put it, we cannot help but feel the effects. Sometimes the association challenges us—the past year has been eyebrow-raising to say the least—but most often we celebrate the gifts of the mighty nation. Like this week, for example. Even though our Canadian Thanksgiving is long past, this week we sense the American time of gratitude. Knowing that our friends to the south are taking time to be thankful reminds us to seek it out ourselves.

We practised a “heart of the matter” form of gratitude in our house during the period within our kitchen renovation when the sink had no running water. Inconvenient, right? You betcha. But when we walked the ten feet to one of the FOUR bathrooms in our house to turn on a tap to access CLEAN, ACCESSIBLE water effortlessly, we said to ourselves, “We didn’t have to walk for miles with a bucket to fetch water that might or might not be potable.” Gratitude for the ease with which we accessed a substance so vital to survival made the inconvenience of doing dishes in a small sink something to celebrate, not resent.

Gratitude brings joy, for sure, but the real gift of gratitude is its bridge to perseverance, its ability to help you go far in celebration instead of resentment. It places you in a Now that allows you to make it to the next Now, and the next, and the next . . .

Now, America, fair and softly, thank you. Now, now, now . . .

Gratitude for that which endures, on Thanksgiving

buddha-board

The Buddha Board my daughter gave me for my birthday reminds me of what endures, and what doesn’t.

A few weeks ago one of my favourite bloggers, Tuesdays with Laurie, celebrated a birthday by posting a list of 59 things for which she is grateful.

I thought of Laurie’s list on Canadian Thanksgiving Sunday when the minister at my church spoke to us about gratitude. In her reflection, our minister encouraged us to ponder mindfully where we focus our gratitude. Are we thankful more often for material things that perish at day’s end—life’s manna, if you will—and do we remember to express gratitude for those aspects of our life that endure?

Laurie’s gratitude list impressed me because so many of the items on her list are those intangible qualities that a person cannot hold in a hand, and yet they somehow endure: connection, creativity, healing, safety, peace, kindness, spontaneity, imagination, comfort with being alone, dreaming, curiosity, enjoyment of learning something new . . .. Other items on her list require some physical element to achieve them but still lead to something that endures: photography, mental acuity, travel, music and singing, laughter, glasses with which to see clearly . . ..

In the comment section of her post I wrote that I’m grateful to work in a place where I see children. Their uninhibited approach to life and their infinite creativity inspires me; they are physical beings who give me a gift that endures.

Uninhibited creativity

I love the uninhibited creativity of children.

I’m grateful for inspirational books that enlighten me and brighten my days.

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I’m grateful for the Famous Five who made my life as a woman so, so much easier and more fulfilling.

Famous Five monument, Parliament Hill, Ottawa, Canada

Famous Five monument, Parliament Hill, Ottawa, Canada

I’m grateful that my friend, Jennifer, gave me my two-word poem: Laughing Thinker.

postcard poem Arlene

And at this time of year, I’m grateful for baseball. The players, the teams, the stadiums may change, but the character development that comes from participation in sport endure.

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Our Thanksgiving turkey leftovers and pumpkin pie are almost gone already. In a few weeks the baseball season will be in the past. When that happens, this Laughing Thinker, a woman who enjoys full benefits in our society, will be pondering wisdom she gleaned from inspirational books and learning life lessons from those fabulous children she sees at work every day.

Those are wonderful gifts that endure on Thanksgiving and all year round.

The colours of Friday

Yesterday our American friends celebrated Thanksgiving, and I celebrated—in my heart—with them. Today our American friends have the “day after Thanksgiving,” which has become known as Black Friday, for some reason. I celebrate this day—in my heart—with them again.

But little by little, incrementally, in a way that makes me tilt my head in confusion, Black Friday has been creeping north of the border to live outside of our hearts—in our big box stores and shopping malls. Why? There’s no good reason for Canadians to be doing anything special today. It’s a day like any other. There’s no colour needed here.

I look around me for the colours of my day.

I have a yellow happy face frisbee that hangs on the wall behind my desk because it makes me happy; perhaps it’s a yellow day for me. The frisbee hangs over my modest collection of orange and black tigers (a minor obsession); orange and black would power my day beautifully.

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We had a major snowstorm here this week, so outside my window is a white world; maybe white should be my colour of the day.

winter-wonderland

I baked cookies for our church bazaar tomorrow, and I have plates of blue, green and pink ready to drop off later; are those today’s colours?

shortbread-cookies

Speaking of the bazaar, I’ll find plenty of Christmas red and green there; I could adopt red and green for the day.

But then, I’m wearing purple pajamas as I write this and I love purple; I would be really happy with a purple day.

But I still can’t seem to find any black in my day. Oh, wait a minute. It’s recycling day in my neighbourhood. I put out our black box this morning.

Ah ha! It is Black Friday after all.

black-box

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I suggest you read Kate Heartfield’s column on Black Friday, from today’s Ottawa Citizen. http://www.ottawacitizen.com/business/Black+Friday+invented/9224792/story.html

Face the sun

Photo courtesy of ecolocalizer.com

“Wherever light is, no matter how weak, these flowers will find it. And that’s such an admirable thing. And such a lesson in life.” —”Chris” in Calendar Girls, 2003

We have just had the most amazing Thanksgiving weekend. Sun. Warmth. More sun.

So easy to feel positive and thankful on a warm sunny day in October. But what about the rest of the time?

Calendar Girls used sunflowers as a metaphor for seeking the positive in life. They not only look like the sun (at least as we see it), but the big bright yellow heads of the flower follow the sun as it tracks across the sky each day. Helen Mirren’s character says, “I don’t think there’s anything on this planet that more trumpets life than the sunflower.”

As we head into winter, remember the sun and find the light, no matter how weak.

Gratitude makes you happy

This past summer, A.J. Jacobs, author of The Year of Living Biblically: One Man’s Humble Quest to Follow the Bible, spoke to a gathering of law librarians in Philadelphia. His speech included anecdotes about how the research for his writings has affected his life.

When Jacobs chose to explore the Bible, he did it the Jacobs way—to the extreme. He lived for a year following every law and teaching in the Bible. Or rather, he tried to live that way for a year but discovered that there are more than 700 laws in the Bible and some of them contradict one another. “Even absolutism must have exceptions,” he wrote, as he struggled to decide what to do.

But at the end of the year he had changed.

He was happier, and the secret was gratitude. Faith communities encourage the giving of thanks, and when he adopted a daily practice of giving thanks throughout the day for all those little wonderful things that often go unnoticed, it changed him. He realized that for every one or two minor things that went wrong, a hundred things went right.

Sometimes we “save up” our gratitude for Thanksgiving weekend, instead of mindfully practising the giving of thanks throughout each day, week and month. This weekend, be thankful, and let it be the beginning of spreading out your gratitude, and your happiness, throughout the year.

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