Another post with ZIP to do with running. But hopefully it will be an enlightening one. I've been seeing this trend on Facebook everyday during the month of November. Many of my Facebook friends have taken to making a daily public announcement of one thing they are thankful for that day. It makes me smile every time I stumble across one because let me tell you, some of these people have some pretty shitty circumstances. It also makes me smile because this has been a mission I have been on for several weeks.
It started when my cousin, Elizabeth, sent me a book called "One Thousand Gifts." If you have heard of it, isn't it incredible? If not, well worth the investment on Amazon. At any rate, I read the book and it was life-changing. At least I hope it was life-changing. I hope it doesn't become one of my well intentioned new "things" I am going to do that quickly fades when the newness wears off. I am good at that too.
The premise behind the book is this: live in a state of gratitude; a constant state of thankfulness. Now this seems nearly impossible to me as I am often praying with my kids on the way to school through clenched fists and gritted teeth. Seriously, we say the Our Father and Hail Mary every single morning. A lot of parents do night time prayers with their kids. I needed another option considering I am usually fast asleep before my kids. So we do morning prayers. After I read this book, I incorporated the rule that everyone must say one thing they are thankful for. No matter how grumpy, irritated or ungrateful they feel, they have to find gratitude SOMEWHERE. It is funny to listen to the things they list. The kids in the car include two neighbor girls and the ages in the car range from 7-12 (The 12 year old is my Emma. Yeah, try this with a moody, annoyed, eye rolling pre-teen. Now you understand the clenched fist/gritted teeth thing). These things can range from very insightful things... "my family", to things that are just plain weird... "my shoelaces". I never, EVER make fun or try to get the kids to change it. Some days are seriously just that bad and you really can only find shoe laces to be thankful for. Whatever they say, it's all good. Just be thankful, kids. I often times want to say, "Hey, how about you be thankful that I did not kill you this morning when I told you a thousand times to GET IN THE DAMN CAR?" But I reign in the urge and try to honor the mood I am trying to create.
The most powerful words in that book were stated when the author reminded the reader that even Jesus lived in a state of thankfulness and did so during his darkest moments. You will recall the words, "On the night he was betrayed, he took bread, broke it and gave thanks..." Do you get that? On the night before he was to be horrifically beaten, humiliated and murdered (all which He knew was His fate), he was thankful. Eucharist. It means thanksgiving. I re-read that over and over and tried to absorb those words. Yes, I could and would find something to be thankful every single day and so would my children. To my children, these are just words, an annoying thing mom is making us do. But hopefully the thought of giving thanks takes root and as they mature, infiltrates their hearts and minds like I am trying to make it do at the age of 41. It is not easy. I struggle often. Somedays gratitude comes easy, other days it is harder than hell to find anything to be thankful about. Particularly the days I am in a bad mood or absorbed in self pity. But I make myself do this. I MUST do this. I am immensely blessed as is every single human being in one way or another. If for no other reason than God loves us, which is huge.
Well the lingering feeling that I was leaving out Will, my fourteen year old, would not go away. Some mornings I drive Will and three other boys, ages 14/15 to school. The drives takes approximately 25 minutes and often times the boys have their heads in their phones, earbuds in and just look tired and miserable. This morning I finally decided I was going to do this with these boys. I couldn't possibly be offending any of these boys who attend a Catholic high school. I did not imagine it would be well received and I imagined Will would slink down in utter embarrassment that his mom was making his friends pray out loud. I didn't care though. It is my car, therefore, they will follow my rules. I did decide to run it by Will, however. I asked him if he would be ok if we did the whole "prayer thing" on the way to school. His answer SHOCKED me. He said, "It's fine. I don't care." Now he did not act super excited, but he did not act a bit embarrassed either. Will is deeply rooted in faith and doesn't mind that people know it. This isn't to say he doesn't act like a complete ass sometimes (don't we all?), but I never give him credit for that. I need to. I am so thankful for it.
All the boys load in the car and I tell them the plan. I expected laughter or snickering to erupt, but I got nothing. So I proceeded with the sign of the cross and began the Lord's Prayer with each of those boys saying it right along with me. Eucharist. These four boys could not be more different in personality. I was amazed and also ashamed at what I expected of them. They each said one thing they were thankful for, among which were, health, a warm sweatshirt, modern warfare (yep, that's Danny for ya!) and the fact that one made his first round of basketball cuts yesterday. I listened to each of them... sincere, reverent, participating. How could I have been so wrong about how they would react? They may go home and tell their parents I made them do the STUPIDEST thing today, but I don't care. They were respectful of my request and that is what mattered.
I had found my thing to be thankful for today.