We're moving to Provo on Wednesday and flying to Pittsburgh Saturday on the first leg of our month-long trip, so here's something seasonal I wrote about gratitude. Looking back over the thirteen years since this was written, clearly I'd make a different list now. How about you? I'll be back in time to post some essays about Christmas.
Thanks, But Gimme
Confession time: I’m a compulsive list maker, a trait I modestly associate with my ability to organize, anticipate, and shepherd a project through to its successful conclusion. I even keep lists of topics to write about. My daughters are both list makers, which is how I got through two weddings in three months with a minimum of stress. Lacking a day planner, my husband makes lists on odd pieces of paper which he somehow keeps track of. My son is beginning to get the hang of it, if the notes he writes on the back of his hand are any indication. My mother used to make grocery lists and keep household accounts on the backs of used envelopes.
Some people make lists to give the appearance of being organized, but nothing ever really gets checked off. Some people, knowing the theory but not the practice, make lists and then promptly lose them – motivated forgetting perhaps. Others are so brilliant they can remember everything and get it all done without benefit of a visual reminder. My experience in life is this: Blessed are the list makers, for they shall inherit all the responsibility for keeping the world going.
This seems to be the time of year for lists. We make lists of neighbors or friends to recognize with a special gift, some of them more out of obligation than feeling. We search the address book for people to send Christmas greetings to, and check who sent cards to us last year. We list on the calendar all of the school, community and church events we want to, or are expected to, attend.
Ironically, we make lists of things we’re thankful for at Thanksgiving, and then, apparently unsatisfied with those blessings, a week or so later we make lists of things we want to get for Christmas. That’s the human race for you – never satisfied. If I were tempted to buy into that “thanks a lot but gimme more” trap, my list would be tempered with realistically knowing that I’m not the center of everybody else’s universes. On the other hand, my self-indulgent self would make a list like this:
I’m thankful for the mild fall we’re having, but I know it won’t last, so I’d like a new bathrobe, full-length and fleecy, please.
I’m thankful for my computer, but I’d like to upgrade to a newer model, with a color laser printer, and some software, especially an electronic cookbook, please.
I’m thankful for the wherewithal to be adequately clothed, but I’d really like a tee shirt that says Give me all your chocolate and no one will get hurt, please.
I’m thankful for my house, but I’d like to build a deck/sunroom/hot tub onto the back of it, please. (My husband would certainly be grateful for having less lawn to mow.)
I’m thankful for our fuel efficient, dependable automobile, but I’d sure like one that’s also comfortable on long trips, please.
I’m thankful for music, but I’d really like the new CD just released by the Anonymous 4, please.
I’m thankful for my ability to write, but I’d like the time to finished the three or four plays I’m working on and get them published and/or produced, please.
But enough of this self-gratifying pleasure seeking. It’s spiritually and mentally a lot healthier to make lists of things to give other people. Whether or not it’s in our power to give them things we wish they could have, going through the exercise fosters the kind of insight about the human condition that selfish, greedy people never learn. It wouldn’t surprise me a bit to learn on Judgment Day that those whose hearts have been generous and grateful, who have not measured life or people in terms of things, will qualify for the best seats in the house; they’ll go straight to the head of the line. And if God makes lists of his favorites, I wonder how long that list would be, and if I’d be on it.