Welcome to November, the month of gratuitous gratitude. Thank you for being here! I appreciate you taking the time to read these words. Gracias por being. 고맙습니다, Merci, Danke, Þakka þér fyrir.
All superficial joking aside, I do value gratitude. I practice it, probably not as much as I could, but that’s okay, room to grow gives me a goal. With Thanksgiving a few weeks away, the interwebs will be trending with gratitude journals and scientific research that tells us the health benefits of practicing gratitude.
Just as with the months that celebrate Black History (February) and Women’s History (March), I like to use November as a time for heightened awareness of gratitude and its importance, with the idea that what is remembered this month is not forgotten every other month of the year.I’ve decided to spend time each week reflecting on what I’m grateful for, with the idea of using November as a springboard for gratitude, rather than an excuse to pay lip service to being thankful. With Abraham Maslow’s handy hierarchy of needs as a framework, I invite you to join me in reflecting on and being grateful for what aids us in our actualization of being human. The focus for this week? Basic needs.
How often do you think about the water you drink and how it most likely comes out of a faucet on your command, free of pathogens?
I am grateful for indoor plumbing, for the people who work at Denver Water, for the person who designed the water bottle I most frequently use, and for hydrogen and oxygen getting together to make some refreshing science happen. Thank you water!
Okay, so here I am tempted to talk about one and done plastic water bottles. How yes they are recyclable but how very few of those bottles are actually recycled. However, going there doesn’t feel very gracious. Here’s where the stretch happens though, where can I express gratitude for plastic water bottles that end up in the ocean? I am grateful for the technology that makes bottled water available. I am grateful for having the option of bottled water in the event of a natural disaster, when I would not have access to my typical source of water. Sigh. That actually felt pretty good.
Do you express gratitude for the food you eat through prayer or words to all the lives who got it to your table?
My go to prayer as a kid was the old standard, “God is good, God is great, let us thank Him for our food. Amen.” I always wanted it to be, “Let us thank him for our plate.” A good rhyme but a misdirected message of thanks, maybe. Nowadays my life is filled less with capitol “G” and more with “powers that be.” My husband and I never say a prayer of thanks before a meal…except on Thanksgiving when we are part of the collective prayer said by his 93 year old grandmother, who I am so grateful to know and spend time with…but before I get carried away on a tangent of thanks, back to giving thanks for food!
I think I’ll talk to my husband about adding some gratitude to our before dinner time. Shared meals are a gift, a great time to practice expressing thanks! Marking my To Do list with: “Words of thanks before meals.”
Does your house feel like a home?
I tend to think about how thankful I am for my home when the weather gets colder. On really cold nights, I think about how grateful I am to have a home with heat that works. For people in positions of privilege, it’s easy to take shelter for granted. We may feel entitled to the roof over our head and the walls that protect us from the elements. It may be hard or scary to think about life without a home. For me, perspective comes when I think about the young people I used to work with, some whose families were homeless. This could mean they were living out of their car or in a motel room, long term. Neither scenario is one I’d want to have to deal with. I am grateful that I haven’t had to do so.
I am grateful that my house feels like a home, and that I don’t have a landlord or lady who I have to worry about raising the rent. I’m thankful for the three other hearts (husband, cat 1 and cat 2) who beat in the Sound Space, truly making it feel like home to me.
When’s the last time you thanked the clothes on your back for keeping you covered?
Okay so maybe you don’t anthropomorphize everything like I tend to do and haven’t said, “Thank you clothes! You saved me from an embarrassing moment of being naked in the library.” But when’s the last time you were thankful for having clothes to wear? I am grateful for having the basic clothes I need to protect me from the elements (cold in winter, sun in summer) and for having easy access to a washing machine that I can wash said clothes in. I’m thankful that I don’t feel the need to have a closet full of brand name clothes and for having just enough style that I know they’re now called “joggers,” not “sweats.”
I think for many people, basic needs are the ones we express gratitude for the least, so there’s the most room for improvement. Here are some suggestions if you’re looking to work more thanks into the air you breathe (thanks air!) and the ground you walk (thanks ground!).
Check your privilege.
Trouble being thankful for drinkable water? Think about those living without.
Food no big deal to you? Well, it is to many. Learn about food insecurity in the U.S.
Leaky roof got you down? At least you have one. People who experience homelessness are more common that you may realize.
Replace guilt with action.
If you start feeling guilty about being a have instead of have not, don’t let guilt paralyze you. Use your privilege or position to do something that spreads the need for gratitude. Remember, try one thing. No matter how small. You will be thankful for the opportunity. Or will you? That’s up to you.