I like to slip out and go on a long run on Thanksgiving, to spend some time reflecting on the good things for which I am grateful. Today I was jogging past this little Thai restaurant right around the corner from my Mom’s house in Atlanta. On the sidewalk right outside their front door, there was a plate with several small portions of cilantro, tomatoes, diced onions and other foods. Two candles were anchored and burning on the plate, too, their tiny flames seemingly out of place in the bright, cloudless morning around them.
When I spotted that plate, carefully placed on the concrete and off to the side of pedestrian traffic, I thought about those fairy tales I read when I was a kid that always seemed to include families who left food on the edge of a forest for the spirits who lived there, to keep them happy. My mind also wandered to the idea of memorials, and whether someone was honoring a person who died and leaving a light behind for them so they were always remembered and their soul nourished. Maybe a restaurant employee was simply showing the world a small token of gratitude, with food, simplicity and warmth.
I hope that every day, not just today, we light a candle or two and enjoy a moment of gratitude for that place within all of us that’s persistently strong and full of hope, a place that’s been with us from the beginning. Maybe we’ve had several beginnings and started over a couple of times, or are just now coming to terms with truths that are changing how we understand ourselves and the world we live in.
In less complicated and universal terms, here are a few things that come to my mind, as I give thanks for what I have, what I know and what I hope for:
- I’m thankful, not just today, but every day, for the good friends my husband and I have in our lives. When I talk about the people I care about, I always stumble over the distinction of friends and family, because our friends have been our family for a long time, particularly as we’ve moved farther and farther away from our hometowns over the years.
- Feeling thankful for old-fashioned things that don’t require electricity, like knick-knacky junk and abandoned clothing in thrift stores that lend old-school irony to my home décor and the way I dress, handwritten thank-you notes, sour-smelling library books with crackly, plastic covers, and my hours-long culinary adventures in the kitchen, like caramelized onions and slow-cooked soups that make savoring a moment deliciously necessary. These tactile objects anchor me and open all my senses to what’s happening right in front of me; they're tried-and-true timeless experiences that keep me real and wide awake.
- Equally thankful, though, for all things digital, because these places online where we chatter, post and share make creativity instantaneous and awesome. I love wandering through a city, snapping a picture of something arresting and beautiful and uploading it immediately, so that thought, that idea, is safely stored away in my inventory of imagination. Making a video of my giggling niece and nephew that they can watch over and over again, once I’m on a plane and far away from them and we all need to remember how much fun we had during my last visit. And reading and learning from people everywhere, letting their ideas inform my own, so we’re all growing together.