November 27, 1997 in City

Try High Fives For Your Spirits

By The Spokesman-Review

Hugh is happy. He’s at a Cheney Kiwanis meeting, and he’s holding up a dollar. It’s a Kiwanis tradition for members to tell the group some news that has given them joy and then pay a buck. The happy dollars help support the group’s community service work.

Hugh is happy because his oldest daughter is having her third child and the child’s head is in the right position to be delivered. A simple thing, unless you think of all the complications that can arise in pregnancy and birth. He plops the dollar in the basket and sits down, smiling.

Today is Thanksgiving, a traditional day to be grateful. And the good news is that more and more people are paying attention to the habit of gratefulness.

The bestselling book, “Simple Abundance,” has this premise: We are making ourselves miserable in life by focusing on what we don’t have and longing for the things that evade us - success, money, self-fulfillment. Instead, we should focus on the riches we already have.

Oprah Winfrey carried the idea further and urged viewers to list five things every day they feel grateful for, no matter how inconsequential. Perhaps a great cup of coffee, a good night’s sleep, some quiet time in prayer, an unexpected phone call, a child’s funny remark.

This message of daily gratitude is not new. It’s the meaning behind the ritual of saying a blessing before meals. And the Bible is filled with other reminders.

It’s also the message of “mindful” living practiced in Eastern religions. Thich Nhat Hanh, Vietnamese monk and poet, teaches walking meditation to children. He asks them to say yes, yes, yes as they breathe in and thank you, thank you, thank you as they breathe out.

Always, there will be people who will make fun of such things as habitual gratitude. It sounds corny, even embarrassing. But the other side of gratitude is cynicism and complaint. And both are much more mainstream than gratitude, and far more destructive.

Eavesdrop on some conversations for a day or two and listen to the complaining. Men, women and children kvetch about their jobs, their families, their schools, their stresses. They dwell on what’s wrong with their lives and the rest of the world. It’s a habit, and it can be broken.

Today is a fine day to try a new way. At your Thanksgiving gathering, try a ritual that stresses gratitude. List five things your family or group is grateful for from the past year. Or draw names and say one thing you appreciate most about the person whose name you picked.

Silly? Embarrassing? No, no, no. Happy Thanksgiving.

, DataTimes The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Rebecca Nappi/For the editorial board

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