I love Thanksgiving. As a young adult, it replaced Christmas as my favorite holiday. I still enjoy it, even though I haven’t been able to celebrate it with my family since I moved to Texas.
But I have mixed feelings about thanks giving – about the practice of gratitude. On one hand, gratitude encourages reciprocity and cooperation, and it focuses our attention on what’s right and away from what’s wrong. On the other hand, gratitude in isolation can let us forget that just because we have it good doesn’t mean others do too. Gratitude is no substitute for justice.
Still, giving thanks is an important part of my daily spiritual practice. Rather than a holiday litany, I’d like to write about the things I give thanks for every day.
I give thanks for my family of blood. I’m thankful for my mother, who gave me life and who is still in this world. I’m thankful for my father and all my grandparents, who are not. I’m thankful for my extended family, who are good people and who, no matter what they think of my unorthodox religious choices, have never said one unkind word about it. You all gave me my start in life, and a firm foundation on which to build, and I thank you.
I give thanks for my family of choice. I’m thankful for my friends in CUUPS, in Unitarian Universalism, in Druidry, and in the wider Pagan world. We are more than co-religionists – we are family who cares for each other, fights with each other, loves each other, and is working to build a better world. You bring joy into my life, and I thank you.
I give thanks for my health. My grandfather died of a heart attack. Two uncles died of heart attacks. My father, who was younger and thus the beneficiary of more advanced medical care, survived three heart attacks and lived to 71. At 52, I’m no longer young, but I can still do pretty much what I want, and I have no signs of heart disease. Some of that is due to not smoking, but some is simply the grace of the Gods, for which I am thankful.
I give thanks for safety. There are no terrorists at my door telling me to convert or die. My employment has never been threatened. I can dress in Druid robes and lead a Pagan ritual in the biggest park in Dallas in the middle of the day and the worst(?) I get is curious looks. I’m thankful I can live the way I’m called to live, and my gratitude reminds me that my safety brings with it the obligation to use that privilege for the greater good.
I give thanks for my ancestors. The Becketts, Wests, Reynolds, Hales – because of you I have life, and a wonderful family. The Unitarians and Universalists – because of you I have a church, and a community. The Druids – because of you I have an order, and another family. The English, Irish, Welsh, and Scots – because of you I have a heritage. The list goes on and on, back to the ancestors who first crossed the ocean, who first began to move west, who first came out of Africa, who first were human, who first were mammals, who first breathed the air, who first lived. I am who and what I am because of all of them, and I’m thankful for them.
I give thanks for the spirits of place. Where ever I have lived, the land and the spirits of the land have spoken to me and welcomed me. It took a while in my current place, but being neighborly makes a huge difference between being happy in a place and being miserable. I’m thankful for the spirits of this place, and my gratitude reminds me that no matter what the legal documents say, this place is not mine alone.
I give thanks for the Gods who speak to me. There are many Gods. I honor some, and I work with and for a few. They have taught me Their values and Their virtues. They have helped me in bad times and challenged me in good times. They have given me glimpses into who and what They are, and They have helped me become part of something bigger than myself. I honor Them and I worship Them, and I thank Them every day for being in my life.
I give thanks for my calling as a Druid and a priest. What do you want to be when you grow up? I thought I wanted to be rich and powerful. I thought being a corporate executive with a huge salary and all the trappings of wealth would make me happy. And then when I didn’t do the things that would have moved me toward that goal (because I didn’t want to do them) I thought I was a miserable failure. It took many, many years for me to realize that Druidry and priestcraft was what I really wanted to do.
I have found fulfillment in leading ritual and worship, in reflection and writing, and in solitary devotion. This is what I really want to be when I grow up, and working toward it makes me happy. I’m so very thankful for this calling.
This is what I give thanks for every day, including Thanksgiving Day. What are you thankful for?