My family prays before we eat. Sometimes we say it quickly, like an obligation. Other times we do it carelessly, out of habit. At our best times it's a real heartfelt expression of gratitude. It will be Thanksgiving in a few days. We'll spend the day catching up with extended family, watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, and playing board games. I hope that as we sit down to lots of good food that our prayer will be of the heartfelt variety. Our blessings are so numerous, even in the midst of hard times, that we sometimes take them for granted.
According to Consumer Reports, "The average American is exposed to 247 commercial messages each day." Let that sink in for a moment: we are told what our life lacks 247 times a day. I'm not against advertising (I used to make commercials for a living) but I wonder how that constant barrage affects us when we don't think critically about it. The Madison Avenue machine has us brainwashed that there is always something better around the corner (for a price).
A few months ago I sat at the funeral of a friend who died way before his time. He was ill for a few years. Disease made it impossible to continue his art and finances became a struggle. His sister reminisced about his positive attitude even as his condition worsened. She'd ask him how he was doing. He'd reply, "Well, I'm still walkin' and breathin'." There were many times he could have been discontent, I'm sure, but he chose joy wherever he could find it.
There is a yellowing note tacked to my bulletin board. It is a prayer that I heard someone describe on the radio years ago:
"Three types of prayers God answers:
Want what you have,
Be who you are,
Do what you can."
I wish you contentment this Thanksgiving and throughout this holiday season.
Ian Eastman, M.A., is a community educator with Family Services of Warren County-a charitable agency that provides counseling, substance abuse services and support groups.