The Season of Gratitude

I had the opportunity to go hear the DePaul Community Chorus’ fall concert this past Sunday afternoon. (One of my good friends is a member of the bass section.) The theme of the concert was “A Thankful Heart: Music for the Season of Gratitude,” and included some truly beautiful choral pieces. I like the conductor, and having been to a handful of this choir’s concerts before, I particularly like the accessible way he introduces the pieces and gives the audience some insight into the intention behind his programming choices. Today he opened with the question, “Why do a concert about gratitude? What is it?”

Good question.

If you have a Facebook account and your friends are anything like mine, then you are likely seeing all kinds of gratitude posts filling your newsfeed right now. Several of my friends are acknowledging their thankfulness for things both large and small on a daily basis. I’m not participating in this particular annual tradition this time around, at least not in a social media kind of way, but I still think it’s a great practice.

To be honest, it’s the small things that I enjoy reading the most. I love seeing people’s gratitude for moments like a warm cup of tea on a cold day, or a phone call from an old friend. Taken alone, these things may seem nice and fairly innocuous. But over the course of a month of acknowledging these little, almost forgettable events speaks to me of a great deal of abundance. It shows the places in my friends’ lives where love, comfort, joy, pleasure, respite, and calm exist. It shows the places where they reach out and celebrate connection to the world beyond themselves. In that way, and particularly in this season, I think gratitude is communal.

The concert I went to was held at and sponsored by a Catholic university, so unsurprisingly the program was filled with Christian music. But one thing the conductor said that struck me was that gratitude is a quality that transcends spiritual boundaries. All faiths, all cultures, all traditions tend to share this practice in some form or another.

That realization helps me as I am headed home to spend Thanksgiving with my very conservative Christian family. I love them very dearly, but we don’t share the same faith. While I may prefer to sing Starhawk’s “Demeter’s Song,” rather than thank Jehovah for the food at our Thanksgiving feast, it helps me to remember that gratitude is the thread of connection running through both of those prayers. Our gods may have different faces, but thankfulness is something that most all humans can understand. And despite our differences, I am extremely thankful for the family I have.

So what is gratitude and why celebrate it? For me it’s a reminder that things I love have worth to me. It reminds me to focus on abundance rather than scarcity. It reminds me that I am connected to more than just my immediate environment. It shakes me out of any desire to remain insular and reach out to say, “I value you.” And as the nights grow colder and darker, that kind of warmth that comes from being a part of a community of humans who are thankful for each other might just be what gets me through the winter. It might just be what always has.

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4 thoughts on “The Season of Gratitude

  1. Shaun November 27, 2013

    Words of wisdom, River. Thank you for these warm words in a season and time when we all need them.

    Reply
    • River Roberts November 27, 2013

      Thanks, Shaun. May your holiday be filled with all kinds of abundance!

      Reply
  2. Katje November 28, 2013

    This year, we are especially grateful that you are still with us! L’chaim!

    Reply
    • River Roberts November 28, 2013

      Thanks, Katje! Have to say, I’m pretty grateful for that, too. Makes it much easier to enjoy the abundance of wonderful friends I am blessed to have in my life. 🙂

      Reply

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