This Thanksgiving is different, and we all know it. It’s different because there is suffering behind us — some have suffered only a little, and others have held the unendurable in their hearts.
With that in mind, we ask, why be grateful now?
I don’t think it is a selfish question. It is apt for this season — to pause and think deeply about it.
No doubt there are those with so much pain that it is a question they’d rather push aside til time heals. There are no doubt those whose hearts are dry and incapable of gratitude. Two years of coronavirus pandemic and its forced isolation can do that to a person.
For some, the joy at reunions and family meals may be tempered by the realization of how impermanent and provisional our time here is. It’s always been so, but the last two years have underlined those truths.
Finally, there is a group that, because of the impermanence, sees this time as joyous beyond measure. (I aspire to this!) They are the ones who are wise, kind, and who understand that this thing we call happiness is found in the small stuff — the hug of a child, the lovely labor in the kitchen and the laughter around a Thanksgiving table. If I could construct a prayer or a meditation, it would allow me to be filled with these moments.
And of course, lest I forget, the simple pleasure of living with dogs— even Rika, a German shepherd, who when I was 14, stole the Thanksgiving Day turkey off the counter and bolted out the door while our family was saying grace. The kids immediately gave chase and thought it was the most fantastic dog act we’d ever seen, although my mom, the aunts and the grandmothers vehemently disagreed.
Living with, loving, and being grateful for a dog. Not much else exemplifies for me the simplicity that life can offer if our search is for joy.
Take a moment here to reflect on what your dog brings to you. The dog is contentment at just being with you. The way the dog follows you around the house. The dog’s joy at the word “walk?” Our part-Chihuahua, part-terrier Maisie will sit on my lap and just stare into my eyes as if she’s trying her mightiest to tell me she loves me. (Or maybe, she’s thinking, “give me a treat” — the jury’s out on that.)
I am obviously obsessed with dogs and more than grateful for their presence in my life.
I decided to see how far out to sea I was about this, so I reached out to family and friends and asked them what they thought about their dogs this Thanksgiving. Here is a sample:
“Baron is a mood contagion. He wakes up happy, and it’s contagious. He loves to cuddle, and it’s contagious. He’s equally up for a nap or a walk or a wrestle if that is what’s needed. His wagging tail lifts the mood of the entire house, and he makes me laugh. He’s kind, loving, compassionate, and a constant reminder that I can be all those things. He’s a good boy.” JW and his pitbull, Baron
“I’m grateful that our Saint Bernard is so patient with our children while they use him as their personal jungle gym.” DB and her 2-year-old dog, Ben.
“Without fail, upon our return home from an outing, we can always be sure of a wagging tail and happy dog to greet us. I am forever grateful for the unfailing love and loyalty.” PB about their Great Dane, Ripley
“I’m grateful to our dogs ... because they like me. Unconditionally!!” My daughter, Sully, about Maisie and our Great Pyrenees mix, Toby
“I’m grateful that you trusted me. I mean, like thank you for trusting me immediately, when you had no real reason to.” LP about a newly adopted pitbull
“Just the joy of being met after a hard day by two wiggly, happy dogs!” LW
So for a small moment or so this Thanksgiving, as there is an assault on our senses by family, football and then endless commercials telling us what we need to be happy, turn everything off. Take your dog for a walk. Enjoy the peace. Be joyful. Sit. Stay— with a dog at your feet. For that small moment of time, the world will seem a happy place.