What's your big bear?

We sat at the Thanksgiving dinner table keenly aware we had to fulfill a family tradition of giving thanks for at least one thing.  In past years, it was easy.  This time it felt like thankfulness was being held at bay by a veil, just out of reach and hard to focus on.  It had been nearly a year since His Next Page was diagnosed, and here we were sitting around the table going through the tradition of sharing something we were thankful for.  Have you ever done that?  Have you ever peered around the veil of uncertainty and disease, to intentionally find a tiny pinpoint of thanksgiving in the distance to focus on?

The exercise was hard for me.  It was tinged with guilt, selfishness, and the reality that life's not fair. But, then a little person snuggled into my lap and asked, "What are we doing Nana?"

I explained as simply as I could that everyone was taking a turn to say what they were thankful for.  When you are four years old waiting quietly and understanding the process can be a bit challenging.  When you are over fifty, waiting for your turn and coming up with your thanksgiving statement can be tough too.  We waited together, little JMH and I.  By the time it was his turn he was nearly exploding with his thankfulness, he announced with volume and vigor, "I'm thankful for big bear!"

His thankful enthusiasm and certainty was contagious.  It was laugh worthy and a classic example of the beautiful simplicity of children. Tell them they will get a turn to announce their thankfulness and they seize it.  Tell an adult with a busy mind they get a turn to announce their thankfulness and we squirm.  What happens to us between four and fifty years of age that dampens our thanks?  Lots of stuff, I know.  Events we didn't anticipate slow us down or trip us up.  Relationships blow up leaving us to pick up the shards of brokenness year after year.  Illness visits, forcing us to struggle with the reality of our mortality.  We lose track of the goodness amidst the cracks of life.
We don't just lose track, we stop looking for and announcing our thankfulness.  JMH had no guilt about having a big bear when no one else at the table had one.  He reveled in his thankfulness for big bear.  The little guy wasn't concerned about joyfully expressing his thanksgiving if someone else in the room might have been sad.  He was compelled to nearly shout his thanksgiving because of his excitement at having a turn and his love for big bear.  It was a freeing and beautiful thing to watch unfold.  It was a child leading us and teaching us how to be thankful.

What if we stopped worrying about what the world would think and we drew back the veil of our own insecurity, disappointment, and doubt?  What if we truly asked ourselves at least once a day, what am I so thankful for that I feel like I could burst with excitement?  Adults downplay our excitement, we don't want to offend anyone else or look foolish.  We forget how to simply enjoy a moment, a person, a sight, a taste, a sound.  I'm going to try being thankful in a simple way today.  I'm thankful I can type a blog for you.  I'm thankful for JMH's lesson in how to be unreservedly thankful. I'm thankful for hot coffee and the morning quietness of the swake.  Now it's your turn.  What's your big bear? One thing you are thankful for, just one that makes your heart sing...