I share with you one of my favorite stories about the Buddha. Someone once asked him “Do you believe in God?”
To which Siddhārtha Gautama replied, “Which one?”
To me, this lies at the heart of our relationship with the Creator of the Universe. God is not knowable. Therefore, the concept of thanking God, in my opinion, pigeonholes the concept into a very narrow framework of “Him” and “me”. I wince when people even use the word “Him” when addressing the subject of God. So today, I think about the concept of what it really means to be thankful to God, whoever and whatever God happens to be.
For me, to be thankful means acting on the feeling of being grateful for what I have. I mean, saying you’re thankful for something, you might as well end that sentence with “Yeah, I am thankful for a lot of stuff. Now I’m gonna go grab a pack of smokes.” How does the feeling of being thankful translate into how you live your life? Today, it means I must relish the things that I get to do for others. To, in fact, be psyched about doing them. I mean let’s face it, there’s a place for the touchy-feely warmth of the whole thing. But without a dash of “Whoo! Let’s do this thing!”, the whole concept is pretty boring.
Today, I’m thankful to be an alcoholic (just hear me out). At coffee with a friend last night, after bitching and moaning about feeling lost in my search for a job, often feeling the emptiness of not really having a love interest to speak of, and trying to find meaning in seemingly losing the identity of being an animal lover, which I’ve held onto for dear life these last 9 years, I found myself feeling truly thankful for the knowledge of what I am doing this holiday season.
Honestly, I’m kind of the MVP for a lot of people.
Today is Thanksgiving, and rather than not feeling alone and dejected about not being with my family, I get to help handicapped people travel to celebrate with their loved ones. And I am grateful that I get to do that. But the trick is knowing that that is what I am doing. Feeling a deep sense of satisfaction in and enjoying the contentment I feel in aiding my passengers as they convene with those they hold most dear. And even when they are convening with ones they don’t particularly like. In fact, those are the ones I am most grateful for since I can be a pretty charming fellow when I want to be and for those folks that are not particularly excited about going to Uncle Frank’s for Thanksgiving, I might be the high point of their whole freakin’ weekend.
More than that though, I revel in the happiness I’m bringing to them and their families by helping that whole process along in my own small way. Could somebody else be doing that for them? Sure, of course. But this year, I get to be that someone. Will they forget about me as soon as they are in their son-in-law’s car or safely on the airplane? Maybe. But that is not my concern. That goes against the Zen concept of living only in this moment. For the little patch of time, I get to make their journey as bright and warm as I can. And hey, if I make them chuckle for a minute, all the better .
Over the Christmas holiday, my parents and sister will be in Rhode Island celebrating with my brother and his family. I will be taking care of their dog and a friend’s dog while she is in the Philippines with her son and his family. And I am truly thankful that I get to do this. I am thankful in the novel way of the inward feeling of knowing that this is what I am doing and being filled with the joy and fulfillment of this knowledge.
Also, there’s one key element I should not, will not, cannot forget. Sometimes, those family gatherings are a colossal pain in the tookus. This year especially for me because let’s face it, there’s few things more awkward than being single and childless at the family function. Sometimes, people just don’t know quite what to say you. Compound that with being a single, childless, blogging, Buddhist, recovering alcoholic who leaves it all on the field. I figure I’m kind of doing them and me a favor by being elsewhere.
Then there’s the monkey. And I know He will come. He will come and He will try convincing me that I’d much rather be kissing the bottle, toking the pipe and getting laid. But I know the monkey is there. And I kiss Him and scratch his belly (He hates when I do that). Because that leads me to truly feeling the wonderment in my heart that I am going to miss Thanksgiving and sort of sit this Christmas out so others can enjoy it. And I will be thankful for the fact that this time, this year, it’s not about me at all. It’s what I am hopefully doing for others.
To me, this is being thankful.