This is a picture or my family’s gratitude tree, which is in its 10th season this year. When I started this tradition, I had an actual faux tree on which we hung paper “ornaments” with colored pipe cleaners. Today it has evolved into a tree-shaped cutout on a posterboard displayed on an easel (securing the leaves with tape or glue sticks, and a very few tacks).
We take the tree out every year the day after Halloween and anyone who walks into our home between then and Thanksgiving is welcome to write something they’re grateful for on a leaf and stick it on the tree.
If you zoom in you can see most of what people have written is very basic: life, love, family, friends, pets, and the occasional “oreos,” “my yoyo,” or “candy.” Some of the leaves go so far back they only have scribbles on them (with my translation on the other sides), or one of my boys’ names, when he was practicing how to write it.
A couple of the leaves say “electricity.” The ice storm of 2008 was a very dark time, not only because we lost our power but also because it was shortly after my mother passed away, at Thanksgiving time that year.
We did not put our tradition aside, though we were all very sad by this sudden and unexpected loss and it was bittersweet to see the cornucopia on the posterboard stating my youngest’s gratitude for his dog and his grandma. Still, we found things to be grateful for, even amidst great sorrow.
First Thessalonians 5:18 says give thanks in all circumstances. It doesn’t say we have to give thanks for all circumstances. I know so many people today who are facing trials they never imagined: illness, death, poverty, loss, failed relationships – unspeakable disappointments. What we need to keep in mind is something that my Sicilian colleagues used to say (that I had written on a sticky note in my cubicle during the early years of my technology career), “Si çiùri ‘na porta e si ràpi ‘m purticàtu,” which basically means “a door closes and a gate opens.”
A gate is bigger than a door. Let’s focus on the things we can be thankful for.
Wishing you all a Happy Thanksgiving!