Tis the season of giving thanks. Or perhaps of giving gratitude. I’ve been thinking about this some–not least because Thursday is the American Thanksgiving, which really should not just be about food, but somehow always is (OK, maybe a smidge about the Macy’s parade, and in some households about football, or not killing Uncle Pete who always arrives drunk and has unfortunate opinions), but because I listened to a piece on NPR about a Japanese discipline of mindful thankfulness, which sounds like something I want more of in my life.
As I was showering this morning I said “God, I love hot water.” Because being able to take even a drought-mindful hot shower every morning is what makes mornings possible. I am thankful for hot water, for the fact that generations of thought and genius have gone into the knowledge of how to get water in to my house, and heated, without my having to carry buckets, stoke fires, or do anything more taxing than turn a knob and wait 60 seconds for the water to heat up. I’ve been celebrating hot water (and flush toilets) for years; when you spend a good part of your childhood in a Barn that is awaiting plumbing, that’s perhaps natural. But look: there’s the world, and so much of it is just damned miraculous. Some of the miracle is nature or whatever you ascribe the beauty and awfulness of nature to (I’m still on the fence, and may be forever). And a lot of it is those generations of inspired scientists and technologists and smart people who said “hey, you know what would keep the rain from soaking us to the skin? a roof!” Or the hungry guy who first looked at a lobster and said “Hey, boil it, crack it, serve it with a little melted butter!” Thanks, Lobster Guy.
Grateful, according to my desktop dictionary, means “feeling or showing an appreciation of kindness.” Gratitude is about appreciating something done by another. Thankful, according to the same source, means “pleased and relieved, or grateful and relieved.” There is plenty to appreciate, or feel relieved about, in this crazy old world, but I’m really focussed, right now, on that “mindful” thankfulness. The roof doesn’t actually care whether it’s doing its job for you; it’s a roof. But I can be mindfully thankful, with heavy rain forecast, that I have a roof, that it does a good job, and protects me and mine.