By Laura Seymour
You may be reading this after a wonderful Thanksgiving with many or few, yet always thankful for what we have. The challenge is to be thankful every day and not just on the special day dedicated to it. In a wonderful article by Paul Pritchard many years ago, the challenge was to go from the noun Thanksgiving to the verb “ThanksBeing.” Here is a definition of Thanksgiving as a noun: The act of giving thanks; grateful acknowledgement of benefits or favors, especially to G-d. But Pritchard promotes “ThanksBeing” as a verb:
The act of contemplation for the restoration and benefit of Mother Earth.
An exploration of qualities within ourselves which support unity, peace and love.
A public celebration and recognition of one another’s unique essence.
Time set apart of actively giving thanks for just being.
Although not specifically Jewish, this can definitely be spoken in terms of Jewish values. In the Torah, Abraham is told that he “shall be a blessing.” By recognizing who we are and what each of us brings to the world uniquely, we are bringing blessing and thankfulness into the world. The article states: “…it’s how we navigate through this life…how we hold ourselves in times of growth and expansion, as well as pain and contraction. It’s our essential qualities, our divine essence, that are the pillars of our individual lives.” It is not only important for each of us to be aware of how we can be a blessing in this world but more importantly, to recognize that every person brings their unique selves and multiplies the blessings in this world.
As we move from Thanksgiving very quickly to Hanukkah, we have much more to be thankful for, even in a world that is struggling. Rabbi Steven Lowenstein invited Harold Ramis, an American actor and comedian, to speak to his congregation for Thanksgiving in 2017. Ramis took his speech in an entirely different direction — not talking about what he was already thankful for but things he would like to be thankful for in the coming year. Here are a few of his thoughts and we can each add our own:
I’d like to be grateful for an end to global
warming and the destruction of the environment.
I’d like to be grateful for the eradication of the diseases that plague us.
I’d like to be grateful for a system of public
education that provides for all children.
And in his 2017 speech, he hoped for this: “I’d like to be grateful for an end to violence and a lasting peace in the Middle East…” Let this year be the year we can say we ARE GRATEFUL for peace! And let us remember that change starts with each of us. Happy Thanksgiving if you are reading this before your family celebrated and Happy ThanksBeing for all of us in the future — which begins today!
Laura Seymour is Jewish experiential learning director and camp director emeritus at the Aaron Family JCC.