Thanksgiving is clearly one of my favorite days of the year. Committed to honoring the powerful role gratitude plays in life, Thanksgiving is one of the few holidays that seems immune to commercialization. Sadly, this festive day has become known as “the day before Black Friday,” instead of the day which originally was designed to promote unity—unity among the Pilgrims and the Indians—and community, a day to gather the fruit of the land, set a beautiful table, and dine with friends and loved ones.
I’m currently working on about 4 hours sleep. Last night, just minutes before landing in Newport News, the pilot announced that the airport had closed, due to heavy fog, so we were being diverted to Richmond International (an hour and a half from Newport News–where our car was conveniently waiting for us). Already 10:30p.m., Rob and I looked at each other, both understanding that it was going to be a long night. As I peered out the window of the plane, it was clear that visibility was next to none. Thoughts began whirling in my mind. How in the world can this pilot tell where to land? Ok, breathe. He is well-trained. He does this all the time. A few minutes later, the pilots land our plane. An announcement is made that busses will be provided to take passengers, all 450 or so who had been diverted from various other airports, to Newport News. Knowing that this process could take hours, we quickly thought of a secondary plan. We could take a taxi or rent a car, both options costing more than we really could or should spend. On to a third plan. Call Brooke, who was actually waiting at home for us. So, at 11:30pm, Brooke was off to rescue her mom, dad, and brother! As in any unexpected situation, a plethora of emotions rose. Some passengers were angry, tense, and terse. Some, like Rob and I, were just very tired and wanted to get home. Some laughed and saw it a continuation of a party weekend! Before exiting the plane, I overheard one of the stewards say, “I’m going to get a pin that says, ‘This is my fault.'” Obviously frustrated by the tired, grumbling passengers exiting with grunts, I thought, “Here is an opportunity, Janell. You are tired and frustrated, but at least you are alive. Count your blessings.” So, I looked at the stewards and the pilots directly (trying to implement our video blog teaching on the life of Paul), and commented, “AT least we are alive. Thank you for landing our plane.” Relieved that someone finally offered thanks, she smiled.
“Silent gratitude isn’t much use to anyone.”
-Gladys Brown Stearn
Andy Andrews, in his heartwarming book, The Noticer, writes, “‘The situation in which you find yourself is fraught with difficulty, yes. It is also piled high with benefits.’ Jones [the protagonist] paused to ponder a thought, narrowed his eyes, then said, ‘Here, for you, young man, is a law of the universe—one of many, to be sure, but one that is especially applicable to your life at present. Remember, whatever you focus upon, increases.‘” He continues, “When you focus on the things you need,‘ he went on to explain, ‘you’ll find those needs increasing. If you concentrate your thoughts on what you don’t have, you will soon be concentrating on other things that you had forgotten you don’t have—and feel worse! If you set your mind on loss, you are more likely to lose . . . but a grateful perspective brings happiness and abundance into a person’s life.'”
A grateful perspective. At its’ Latin core, perspective means, “to see through.” Last night was a test of perspective. A choice had to be made: focus on what we didn’t have or focus on what we did have. It was up to us. Were we going to see through the negative and reach into the positive. We were alive.
Perhaps this week, this Thanksgiving, will offer you a test like mine. One where you must choose your perspective. Will it be a grateful perspective? It’s up to you! Here’s a little help from Proverbs 20:15 (NIV), “Gold there is, and rubies in abundance, but lips that speak knowledge [acquaintance or familiarity gained by sight, experience, or report] are a rare jewel.” See through your difficulties, gain a grateful perspective, and speak life.