Thanksgiving is usually a holiday associated with abundance – copious amounts of food on the table, lots of relatives gathered together, and the spectacle of a parade with larger-than-life balloons.
It is also the holiday most associated with gratitude. We are almost compelled to be thankful – for food and family, of course, but also for the freedoms we have and for the abundance of our material possessions.
This year gratitude was upended for me by a ferocious hurricane. I’m thankful that my family and friends survived and came through the storm with most of their possessions intact, but the storm made me realize that abundance has a different meaning for me this year. I’m thankful not so much for what I have but for what I have to give away.
As I saw pictures of the devastation in the newspaper – I couldn’t watch them onscreen, TV or computer, because I had no power – I could see how much people had lost and realized that rather than downsize because we no longer need so much stuff, we can downsize because others need it so much more than we do.
So this year I’ve been thinking about gratitude in a different way. I’m thankful for the many opportunities given to me to donate bags of food and clothing… to a Y, at a farmers’ market, to a temple, to a church, and to a colleague who had organized a clothing drive at the office. And I’m especially grateful to all the people who created drop-off sites, who organized clothing drives, and who transported the collected items to the areas hardest hit by the storm.
It shouldn’t take a natural disaster to make us thankful for what we have and grateful for our ability to give to others, but it often does. We should be grateful every day. As Russell Simmons tweeted, “Gratefulness is a practice…” and most of us need to practice.
In the spirit of thanksgiving, I wish everyone a holiday filled – not with abundance – but with just enough to meet our needs, and the insight to realize that having just what we need is, indeed, abundance.
≈Linda Hetzer is an editor and author of books on home design, crafts, and food, and coauthor of Moving On: A Practical Guide to Downsizing the Family Home.
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