What do we think of when we think of the word grateful?

“Sugar magnolia, blossoms blooming, heads all empty and I don’t care, Saw my baby down by the river, knew she’d have to come up soon for air. Sweet blossom come on, under the willow, we can have high times if you’ll abide, We can discover the wonders of nature, rolling in the rushes down by the riverside.”

Definitely the Grateful Dead. Grateful and dead. It means life and death simultaneously. According to Jerry Garcia, it’s from a folk tale of a wanderer who gives his last penny to pay for a corpse’s burial, and then is magically aided by the spirit of the dead person.

grate·ful [greyt-fuhl] an adjective meaning 1) warmly or deeply appreciative of kindness or benefits received; thankful, 2) expressing gratitude, 3) pleasing to the mind or senses; agreeable or welcome. Synonyms are obliged, indebted, pleasant, gratifying, satisfying. Related word is thankful. Origin is from 1552 from obsolete adj. grate agreeable, thankful, from Latin gratus pleasing, and uses -ful to make an adj. from an adj.

Being grateful. A state of mind. An avenue to positive thinking. And now at Thanksgiving, being grateful dominates our thoughts. After a brutal election season. After the brutal effects of a Superstorm. After a brutal economic year. We must look beyond all the brutality. To look within and remember that there is much we can be grateful for. We may be anxious, worried, and stressed. Hopefully we are still hopeful.

Can we be hopeful in a world filled with conflict? Is there a way to even consider gratitude as events in the Middle East takeover our thoughts? Peace and war, allies and enemies. The Dalai Lama believes there is. “For a person who cherishes compassion and love, the practice of tolerance is essential, and for that, an enemy is indispensable. So we should feel grateful to our enemies … with a change in circumstances, enemies become friends.” His Holiness the Dalai Lama can see a glimmer of hope through the thicket. We must, too. In the clearing there lies goodwill, tranquility, harmony. For now can we be grateful for just the possibility?

Count on a Beatle to sum it up best. “Gratitude, gratitude, gratitude. I’m so grateful for everything you’ve ever given me, How can I explain what it means to be loved by you, By you, loved by you, loved by you. Show my gratitude, gratitude, Show my gratitude. I want to show my gratitude, gratitude.” Thank you, Sir Paul McCartney.

Oh yeah, there is always time, too, to be grateful in Stephen King’s world: “You may wonder about long-term solutions. I assure you, there are none. All wounds are mortal. Take what’s given. You sometimes get a little slack in the rope but the rope always has an end. So what? Bless the slack and don’t waste your breath cursing the drop. A grateful heart knows that in the end we all swing.” (From Skeleton Crew)

What a wonderful world! For this alone we must be grateful. Louis Armstrong sang about it: “I see trees of green, red roses too, I see ‘em bloom for me and for you, and I think to myself what a wonderful world. I see skies of blue, clouds of white, Bright blessed days, dark sacred nights. And I think to myself, what a wonderful world.”

We can also be grateful for the kindness others bestow upon us. For the help we receive from our neighbors. For our survival. For our delivery. And for our blessings. We have a day to remember that which we have much to be grateful for. Happy Thanksgiving.


(Sugar Magnolia: Alfred Publishing Co., Inc., Gratitude: MPL Communications Ltd, What a Wonderful World: Memory Lane Music Group)

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