is a wonderful holiday. In fact, it’s my
favorite. We gather with family and
friends to enjoy each other and take a moment to acknowledge what we are
grateful for. The act of experiencing
gratitude can be very centering. It’s almost
impossible to be focused on gratitude and be anywhere but present in the
moment. Gratitude helps level us and can lead to greater contentment and less
anxiety if practiced regularly. However,
I’d like to draw attention to another facet of Thanksgiving’s origins that
receives far less attention: bold choice and action.
Pilgrims fled England to escape persecution and temporarily settled in Holland
where they faced an almost equally aversive threat of assimilation. They could have chosen to remain in Holland
and lose their identity or return to the cozy familiarity of England and
compromise their values. Instead, they
created a third, bold alternative that few before had considered. They chose to cross the Atlantic and create their
own haven in foreign, unfamiliar and untamed territory. They chose to redefine what was possible.
Pilgrims faced a difficult journey that lasted 65 days. By the time they arrived at what we call Cape
Cod, one passenger had died, one crewmember had died and one baby had been
born. They then wintered aboard the
Mayflower where half of the passengers and crew died from disease and starvation. Ultimately they left the ship and created what
was to become the second successful British colony in North America.
I have come
to like running marathons. They hold
special meaning for me and represent my own personal practice of gratitude for
all that life offers. I’ve written about
this elsewhere. However, I fell into a
pattern of running two marathons a year: San Francisco and New York City. For some arbitrary reason I decided this
would be my ritual. 2012 was to be
no different; I was signed up for San Francisco in July and New York in
November. Four days before the San
Francisco marathon my father passed away and I did not participate. Rather than not take advantage of my hard training I found
another marathon to run two months later.
It turned out to be a beautiful event in the Adirondack Mountains. What an eye opener! And what fun!
I also beat my best time by 13
Lightening struck twice this year as hurricane Sandy forced the
cancellation of the New York City marathon.
Again, rather than lose my training I entered the Philadelphia marathon,
which was just a few weeks later. It was another great, new experience
and I ran it yet 10 minutes faster. I also got to see the Liberty Bell for the
first time! The motto of the
Philadelphia marathon is “Redefine Possible.” That really sank in. I am now
aiming for two new marathons every
always unrecognized opportunity within reach.
Familiar routine and habitual choices can obscure what is truly possible. The Pilgrims chose “Option C, none of the
above.” It was not an easy or obvious choice yet the consequences of that choice
still reverberate today. They could not
have foreseen the impact of that choice on their lives or those of subsequent
generations yet their bold adventure in redefining what was possible serves as
a great lesson for us in considering what is truly possible in our own
lives. Recognizing what is possible is
most of what is needed for achieving it.
The possibilities are usually right in front of us. All that is required is taking the moment to redefine
moment at the table this Thanksgiving to be thankful not only for what you have
but for the possibilities, yet unrecognized, available to you. Have a great holiday!
(Other Thoughts and Essays)