The force of thankfulness

I have two reactions when I look at this picture of my children, both with black eyes.

First, I wonder what to say when I accept the trophy for Mother of the Year.

But in all seriousness, I think of the tiny moments that could change our lives but that don't. And I think of what gratitude really means.

I had two moments this week.  The first involved Dandelion, a spiral slide and a stick she was holding.  When I heard her scream and flew across the gravel to her, I didn't realize how potent in my mind was a television show I'd seen recently (a very fictional bit of silliness) where the cops were tracking a biological disease in which the victims died with blood in their eyes.

Guess what was coming out of my three year old's eye when I got to her? And guess what my first thought was?  Death by biological disease.

In fact, she had cut her eyelid and it healed very quickly.  But the long stick was found and thoughts of what could've been haunted me for a few days.

Two days later, while cleaning up a broken glass, I heard the sound of furniture falling to the ground.

Which was actually my son falling down a small (thankfully carpeted) flight of stairs.  He was lying face down, his sippy cup of milk close beside him.  And a massive knot already forming under his eye (I believe the cup was the culprit).  Maybe it's the things we associate with falling down the stairs, but this one shook me up too.

He was back to his rascaly self in no time. I knew when he started pulling his sister's hair that he was going to be alright.

These are moments for me when I wonder what thankfulness really is.  Do we allow ourselves to imagine what could've been so that we can be thankful that it wasn't?  How much imagination do we give to the almost future?

I've heard prayers that set us against other people's pain while concluding, "thank God that's not me." Is it right to feel 'blessed' that we don't have the pain that other people have?

That doesn't sit well with me.

There is so much pain in the world and I've limited my news reading because it can become overwhelming.  But I wonder about the balance.  Because I think we aren't supposed to separate ourselves from the pain of others but instead, to take it on as best we can.  While there might be less I can personally do about the violence across the world, I can do something about the pain in my own community.

I don't think I can alleviate another person's pain most of the time.  But maybe I can help her live with it: by a cup of tea, by babysitting her child, by writing a poem or a song, by sharing music or giving money or making a meal.  Maybe it's only a start or maybe it's the best I have to offer.

Maybe compassion is part of gratitude.

Could it be that empathy can only flow out of a life that is lived in thankfulness?