As we usher in the end of summer and the beginning of fall, the holidays will quickly be upon us.
Already, I have observed friends on social media broadcasting the number of days to Halloween and Christmas. It seems that the year leaps forward when school starts back, even though many of us don’t have children in the school system.
There are many things that I appreciate about the fall season—the chill in the air, long sleeves, warm blankets, bonfires, hayrides, apple cider, apple picking, pumpkin farms, corn mazes, s’mores, the crunch of leaves under my feet. But I especially love the season of thankfulness that settles itself in the lull between Halloween and Christmas when Thanksgiving is approaching.
As a mother of two, I am striving to create a gratitude practice that lasts all year long. It’s not reserved only for Thanksgiving, and it’s not limited to any holidays or family gatherings. Instead, our nightly bedtime routine consists of reading a story, singing lullabies (the Beatles are a current pick) and then talking about what and who we’re thankful for in this life.
My children are toddlers, and their lists often include fictional characters from their favorite movies, chocolate ice cream and toys. Somehow chocolate ice cream always tops the list. But each day, we talk about gratitude and remember to express it. Some people might use this time for a prayer or other faith practice, but I feel that gratitude is the most essential faith practice. It doesn’t have to be formatted with a petition to a deity followed by an Amen. It can instead be a simple list of what we’re grateful for and a quiet feeling of love.
Our gratitude practice can be as simple as remembering to say thank you. Not just in the normal course of events when we receive gifts. We can remember to genuinely express thanks to the cashier at the grocery store, the fast food worker, our postal delivery worker, the person who opens the door for us when we’re entering a building. We can remember to smile and say thank you with true appreciation in every aspect of our lives.
We can extend that gratitude practice into our mindfulness practice by being conscious of our many blessings. We can go for a run and express silent gratitude for the strength in our bodies. We can sit down to a meal, feeling grateful for having food to eat. We can acknowledge all of the things that we have during the course of a day and feel truly thankful for that rather than adding up the things we wish that we had.
On days when I’m cranky and tired and just not feeling my best, I find it difficult to summon gratitude. Still, at night, we sit together and talk about all the things we’re grateful for, and the little voices of my children remind me that we have so much that we can sincerely be thankful for having—even on the toughest of days. It’s the practice that is essential.
We can take a page from my daughter’s book of gratitude and start out with chocolate ice cream. We can always be thankful for that. Then, we can go from there.
Author: Crystal Jackson
Editor: Catherine Monkman