Phyllis Beveridge Nissila
On this third day of the blank slate called 2020, my mind still lingers on New Year’s resolutions.
Just a bit, though.
Because I am like a lot of people who, inspired by the dawn of a new year, the chance to start afresh, get these ideas on how to become a healthier/wealthier/wiser human being and I get excited.
I usually get these ideas by way of those ubiquitous ads (aaaaaand just in time for the New Year!) for gadgets and gurus who will help me achieve all this success.
But that’s not all.
Frequently, to pump up my motivation, they tell me that if I order their whizbang program or product within the next five days I can get in on the “New Year’s two-for-one deal!”
“While supplies last!”
Pretty soon, though, usually not long after I put away holiday decorations or I’m into this new life-changing program for a while, say, five days (hmmm, coincidence?) or maybe a couple of weeks, I find the shine begins to wear off of the hope and hype and my resolve begins to slip.
But, of course, the spirit of deciding to be better (and then following through) is a good thing, although it might not be a noticeable improvement such as shedding pounds or bad habits (two typical resolutions) but somethng to improve the mind and the spirit. Like, for example, saying “thanks” more often, in one way or another.
This year, I have resolved (again) to express gratitude to people who have improved my life, sometimes in ways they may not even be aware of.
What prompts this resolution is a reminder that I have let this good habit slip, of late. You know how it is; you get busy…and it’s a small thing, really.
I’ve been forgetting to thank people not just for their obvious contributions to my life, mind, heart, and/or spirit but also for the less obvious benefits. And maybe the only “thanks” I can give these people might be by way of writing them, or praying for them.
Some might even have already passed on, so my thanks might need to be in some belated, related form, for example, determining to follow their long-ago good example or words of wisdom, today.
Besides the potential for personal improvement, this resolution can be a kind of adventure, too, if only of the imagination (my own knd of two-for-one deal, you might say).
For example, I took some Christmas gift money and purchased a new bathrobe.
It’s long, cozy, made out of the softest fleece (the kind you can’t help but reach out and finger as you pass by its display rounder in the store), and a color I like. Just right for cold winter mornings padding around the house hugging a mug of hot coffee or cocoa.
I remembered, this time, to check the manufacturer’s product label to see where the robe was made (China) and to express some form of acknowledgement.
I thought about the humans involved in its design and creation, or, perhaps those who manned the machines that made and packaged it.
And, if there were any actual human hands involved (to select and position fabric, for example, or wrap the robe in tissue for shipping), I could think about them, too, for a moment: young? old? family? no? weary at the end of a long day…excited for his/her first paycheck in a new job to help finance a better life?
I know, really?
That kind of thing could take up days of acknowledgements, considering how virtually everything we use in life is thought up, designed, and manufactured by someone somewhere else in place and perhaps even in time.
Nevertheless, once in awhile, taking pause to make a brief “long distance connection,” so to speak, to think about the someone, or someones, somewhere going about their job, dealing with the ordinary things of life just like I do, perhaps also as best they can (or perhaps better, having resolved, at the dawn of some other new year…), is of some significance, if small, to me.
And it’s an enjoyable pause by way of my imagination.
As for a form or kind of “thank you,” I can at least offer a prayer for him/her/them. Even a quick prayer for someone, even an unknown someone, can never hurt. God can sort out the who, what for, when, how, and where.
Also, if just to make up for when I myself have felt bereft of some thanks in my own life, not that you expect thanks, per se, for just getting on with things, doing your job–I mean, who even thinks of it–inspires me to do the same for others. Because, for the recipient, extending a “thank you” in some form is like finding an unexpected gold nugget in the mine of an ordinary day. It lifts the spirit.
Besides, we don’t often realize the impact we might have on others as we go about our lives in the ways we do, in the places we inhabit, and by how we deal with our solitary, for the most part, joys and sorrows. It’s good to get at least an occasional “attaboy”.
God knows we can use more of that, in an often unappreciative world.
I was also prompted to get back in the (good) habit of thanking people by something shared by a fellow blogger who happens to live in an extraordinary (to me, anyway) place: not far from the famous and storied Canterbury Cathedral in Kent, England.
He goes there frequently on day trips. I, on the other hand, would be the gaping tourist, stopping frequently to wonder about things like what ancient pilgrim may have sat on this very resting place I am just now passing (perhaps even a prototype of one of Chaucer’s famous pilgrims?!), or who else of centuries’ past, or of today, may have entered the hallowed edifice, traversing its labyrinth of stone and marble hallways, chapels, and crypts; the visual reminders of so much history.
However, my friend also has an imagination and a rich interior life, so he wrote up one of his recent visits, sharing his “view” of the place–an amalgam of religious, secular, and literary history–that enriches my own sense of the divine as well as the ordinary (even in such an exquisite place). Here’s a sample for you, too, plus a link for more where that came from:
St. Anselm’s Chapel
Now I am seated in the chapel dedicated to St. Anselm, one of the luminaries of the theological world who was Archbishop, 1093-1109. May I say that the title ‘Saint’ is not important? Let us also give due respect to the countless ‘saints’ (with a small ‘s’) who have ever lived, Christ’s servants who on this earth were not sanctified by the Church but by their faith, and who are now honoured in heaven for eternity. These are the ones who by the grace of God have passed through the gate where the sheep and the goats are divided and have gone into receive their just reward. These unsung, unknown folk who lived within the customary limitations of human existence, beset by longings and desires, living a constant cycle of sinfulness and piety, many with low expectations of achievement or longevity, most merely striving to gather about them sustenance, warmth and the milk of human kindness. They walked in holy fear of God, that fear which engenders awe and a sense of littleness, dependence and thankfulness. (Colin Markham, fellowshipofstpeter)
(Can you see why I like this? The Cathedral is the final resting place of some pretty upper-crust, rich and famous folk, but here one is also reminded of the great multitude or ordinary men and women, lesser mortals, but faithful too, and no less loved and honored by God.)
So thank you, Colin.
The Odds are also Good
I am reminded as well of people in my life with whom I may have been at odds in the past. And how easy it is to remain at odds, aka, bear grudges, aka dwell on the negative, aka stay stuck in the muck and mire!
For it is easy to forget the basic lesson of being a human, that is, that each of us (they, them, he, her, you, me) is a work in progress. (Of course, some don’t “progress,” so a warning there.)
We’re all moving diplays of human nature, in media res, constant flux– dynamic creatures, to say the least.
Sometimes we soar with our greater angels, sometimes crash and burn with our lesser.
And for some reason, when we remember others, we tend to dwell on the latter, when considering ourselves, the former. (Then again, only we know our own back story, right? And sometimes it is really true that people misinterpret, misunderstand, or judge us through their own lens’ of struggle.)
So it is good for me to remember the good of those with whom I’ve been at odds, to thank him, her, or them of-former-contention for the lessons, the wisdom, and the example they DID provide.
The bonus here is that the memory of “the goods” (even amid “the bads”) tend to make me a better person for the people in my life, too, and perhaps for others in the future.
And as a bonus, thanking former adversaries for “their better half” faciliates forgiveness which enables that for which we all quest continually: peace.
Thank You, Too
There is one more group of people I want to thank today, this 3rd day of a brand new year: you, readers.
As I do my occasional stats review, I am humbled by the number of nations you represent as well as how many of you have stopped by to read or view what is here the past nearly 8 years.
I can only imagine your stituation and station in life and I pray for you and for your needs (God knowing the who, what for, when, how, and where).
That is, I pray for you when I remember to (and therein is New Year’s resolution number two…)
And in this group of deserved “thank you recipients” who stop by here are the WordPress “Happiness Engineers,” as you (appropriately, in my view) call yourselves, who work the behind-the-scenes magic you do to make us bloggers look really good, likely, far better than we may deserve…
I can bet YOU don’t get thanks and appreciation nearly enough, but you definitely deserve it–especially from not-so-tech-savvy people like me…
So there you have it, in this start of the new year called 2020, some much deserved gratitude to one and all.
And I am resolved to be better at this in the coming year.
Image of bathrobe from Wikimedia Commons.
Image of Canterbury Cathedral from the public domain.
Image of people at odds with one another from Wikimedia Commons.
Image of multi-language “thank you” from Wikimedia Commons.
Thank you so much, Phyllis, for including that extract from my most recent article on FSP. The cathedral at Canterbury – in fact any cathedral – offers a rich fund of spiritual and atmospheric inspiration. The one at Canterbury is so vast, ancient and multi-faceted to be a particularly rich source of material.
You’re welcome. I hope readers explore your entire commentary as there is so much more there to inspire and, well, to evoke awe. I speak, of course, as an American where most of our “old edifices,” no matter how beautiful, are just a few centuries old.