Your Attitudes of Gratitude

winners-attitude-of-gratitudeThank you for sharing your stories of gratitude with us this month. They were reminders to us of how important it is to celebrate gratitude not only on one day, but throughout the year. It was truly a pleasure to read through the submissions — and difficult to pick winners!

We haves selected the following seven stories to share with you. We hope you enjoy them as much as we did.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Lauren Stark from Hawthorn Woods, Illinois (and Spain)
What are you grateful for this Thanksgiving?

I had been in Spain for two days, and I was ready to go home. The problem was I still had 108 days to go. I was convinced that I’d never feel comfortable during my semester abroad. The food was new, the language was new, the culture was new. As I sobbed on my (new) bed in my (new) room, I found very little to be thankful for.

But I heard a little whisper that second day: Go to Mass. With red-rimmed eyes and a heavy heart, I found the nearest church and climbed self-consciously into the back row. And all at once, the first words of the processional hymn were sung, the priest walked to the altar, and the smile on my face couldn’t be stopped. I had found familiarity.

Even though the words were spoken in another language, the Mass was the same. I was still surrounded by believers, still hearing God’s message, still receiving the Eucharist.

This Thanksgiving — when, for the first time, I am living in a place that does not celebrate the holiday — I am grateful for the universality of the Catholic Church. My weekly attendance at Mass shared by millions throughout the world gives me constancy in a semester of change. Here I am with only 30 days left in Spain, and I am happy and thankful. I am thankful to have a home.

Beth Giordano from Downingtown, Pennsylvania
What’s your favorite Thanksgiving memory?

For as long as I can remember in my 24 years, Thanksgiving has been a Big Deal. There are no extra incentives to gather the extended family, just the promise of good food and pleasant company. Over the years, my memory has had to adapt to empty seats around our table. Mom-mom is no longer here to help prepare the meal. My cousin Kellen is no longer around to scare the living daylights out of us during raucous games of Hide and Seek. We are no strangers to loss.

Five years ago, my uncle Don was dying of terminal brain cancer, and it just so happened that one lengthier hospital stay overlapped with Thanksgiving. We had a strange, unfamiliar take-out dinner, and most of my family was absent. So about three weeks later we decided to have a proper Thanksgiving. It seemed only fitting, since Thanksgiving was his favorite holiday and this would likely be his last. But he had gotten so much worse that I selfishly wondered why we were having this dinner … he wouldn’t even realize what was happening! In a humbling twist of fate, during grace before the meal, uncle Don stunned us all when he summoned up the strength to speak. With tears in his eyes, he quoted Don Henley, “For every breath, for every day of living, this is my Thanksgiving.”

I will never forget that moment. And I will always be grateful for my uncle, my family, and for every breath I breathe.

Deanna Belanger from Alberta, Canada
Why is it so important to celebrate gratitude?

My parish priest once said that the spiritual journey is all about how you see things. When you change the way you see the world, your situation, your relationships, your life changes, yourself. You either grow closer to God or you distance yourself from Him.

It’s easy to live a life focused on the things that are missing or aren’t yet right: the love I don’t have, the job I don’t have, the family relationships, the friends, the vacation, the stuff, the holiness I don’t have. Looking at life through the lens of entitlement and complaint makes everything look empty and dull. It isolates us by setting up comparisons and inviting envy in for tea. Other people are competition rather than friends, and God is the one holding out on me or punishing me.

Seeing with grateful eyes is about seeing all that I do have, all that is right. It is about recognizing that I am a creature with a Creator, that all that I am and all that I have is a gift. Gratitude connects me to others by pointing out all the ways they have helped me and have given of themselves. God is not only the author of my existence but the one who holds nothing back, not even the life of His only son, in His desire for me to share in His life.

Celebrating gratitude reminds me to check my vision, a spiritual eye exam. Gratitude doesn’t depend on circumstances; it transforms them and me. With thankful eyes, everything is a gift, everything is a grace.

Lisa Charette from Fort Kent, Maine
What’s your favorite Thanksgiving memory?

My favorite Thanksgiving memory involves an evening with no power. No electricity, lit candles, and a large family — what more could you ask for?

Every Thanksgiving, we gather at my parents’ home — my three brothers and their families and my husband and our children. Fortunately, on this particular evening, we had just finished our Thanksgiving meal. As we started to clear the table, the power went out. Some quickly scrambled for candles while several of us made sure the children were comforted in the darkened room.

In an effort to keep the children calm and unafraid, we had an impromptu sing-a-long! The Christmas carols started early that year and Christmas cheer filled the room. Dishes remained on the table. Everyone crowded into the living room. We laughed, we told stories, and we prayed.

In this overly stimulated world, our God often gets pushed aside in lieu of electronics. In one room, Mom can be chatting on Facebook, Dad can be watching a movie on his laptop, brother can be texting on his cell phone, and sister can be SnapChatting with her friends. Not this night! The outside world stayed just where it was — outside! This night was all about family, and no electronic device was going to interrupt. In the candlelit darkness, we welcomed God into our Thanksgiving celebration. God’s presence calms little ones and brings hope to the older crew.

I am so grateful for the hours without power on this one Thanksgiving evening!

Joseph Griffey from Spring Hill, Tennessee
What are you grateful for this Thanksgiving?

My wife suspected something wasn’t right. The stoic movements of our doctor confirmed it. We miscarried the next day.

It was Friday the 13th of January 2012.

For months following that day, I labored to convince myself we didn’t lose a baby, only something that would have become a baby. But it was bigger than that.

Much bigger.

On All Souls Day, I sat in the pews after Mass with my wife.

“She should be here.” The tears welled behind my eyes.

“I know, honey,” my wife whispered. “She is.”

In that moment, I knew what she meant. I toyed with the ring I wear as a constant reminder that our little Carrington is always with us in spirit. In that moment, though, I wanted her in my arms.

For the first time, before my wife and God, I let myself cry tears I held in far too long, convinced that I didn’t have reason to miss something I never knew in this world.

This is why God found me on the Feast of All Souls. It was Carrington’s feast day. And though we didn’t know it, He had already breathed life into another soul inside my wife.

This Thanksgiving, I’m grateful for the perspective my daughters have given me, Carrington watching from above and Caroline squirming here in my arms. All life carries that indelible mark. We are all body and soul. And our souls unite us all in love, capable of bridging any distance created by time or space.

Irene Walsh from Alexandria, Virginia
What’s your favorite Thanksgiving memory?

My junior year of college I traveled from Washington, D.C. to Indiana to spend Thanksgiving with my friend Tim’s family. Tim is a jokester in every sense of the word, so when his mother asked him if my family had any Thanksgiving traditions that they should continue, he replied with a complete lie — “Irene’s father wears a pilgrim hat while carving the turkey.” Tim’s mother didn’t question it. She took Tim at face value and immediately discussed plans to have their family wear pilgrim hats for Thanksgiving to make me feel welcome.

A few days later, when Tim and I arrived in Indiana, it became clear to me that Tim had no intention of telling his family that the whole thing was a joke. Instead of confessing, we smiled and got to making construction paper hats for everyone in the family. That Thanksgiving we wore pilgrim hats as we said grace, scooped mashed potatoes, and sat and enjoyed each other’s company.

It wasn’t until Christmastime that Tim told his family the truth. Fortunately everyone got a good laugh. The hats still make me smile, but today I see that Thanksgiving from a different light. That day showed me just how blessed I was and still am. I wasn’t much more than a stranger to Tim’s mother before that Thanksgiving, but she was willing to risk looking and acting silly for no other reason than to make me feel loved and welcomed. What a tremendous gift!

Kimberly B. Capracotta from Guyton, Georgia
What are you grateful for this Thanksgiving?

“Truly a Blessing”
This past spring I discovered a wonderful blessing that has made me extremely grateful for the smallest daily experiences each day since! After 17 years since my last experience (right before Confirmation in seventh grade), I sought out the Sacrament of Reconciliation. What a glorious blessing! I had not felt so pure and happy in such a long time, though I did not realize it until that day. Since the day I received the sacrament, I have felt the Holy Spirit speak to me in so many ways. I am more patient, less stressed, and more appreciative for every encounter in life. My internal life has so been affected that even my husband has noticed a difference in my external life and attitudes. I have felt closer to the Lord and feel that I can better see the path He leads me on. I have prayed more, read more Scripture, and reached out more to those who are hurting. I have prayed to God to open my heart and my mind so that I may hear His words and learn how to listen to Him.

I am truly grateful for this beautiful sacrament of the Church and the daily strength I receive from God. What a blessing it is to be forgiven and reconciled with the Holy One!