November…we turn our clocks back an hour, trees turn their leaves to red and gold, we turn the page on our calendars and see Thanksgiving looming at the end of the month, with another holiday month to follow. Before holiday stress takes hold, it’s time to take a “Moment’s Pause for Gratitude.”
And that’s the title of a 2017 book by local retired teacher and author Kevin Carroll, published some ten years after a retreat at the Jesuit Retreat Center, about which he expresses an overwhelming “sense of gratitude for the people who had enriched my life, for the opportunities I’d experienced” and for the ability to “see, hear, smell, touch and taste.”
And what better season than autumn to focus on these senses: the changing colors of trees, even in so-called season-less California; the honking of geese hurrying on their yearly migration; the aroma of apples, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg (and thankfully not smoke this year!); the feel of that favorite sweater you haven’t worn since last winter; the tastes of thick stews and pumpkin pie and spiced latte.
In his collection of stories culled from two years of daily blogs, called Attitude of Gratitude, and subsequent more occasional writings until 2017, Kevin Carroll challenges us to reflect on our experiences and embrace an attitude of gratitude, expressing it more frequently and freely. Each remembered story is followed by a few reflection questions to help the reader focus on the people and experiences, triumphs and even failures, in our own lives from which we grow in in understanding and gratitude.
In her book on prayer, Help, Thanks, Wow, Anne Lamott admits her experiences of gratitude run the gamut from finding a good parking space, or her lost keys/phone, to surviving the “latest mess, and you say thanks for the revelation, because it shows you some truth you needed to know…maybe for just a moment, but in a way that might change (your) life forever…” It’s so easy to thank God for the beauties of nature, the loyalty of friends, the joy of real love, but how good are we at thanking God for the revelations that come from disease, from the broken places in relationships, from the simple pains of everyday living to the seemingly unsurvivable pain of tragic death? But, survive we do, with the help of God who fixes all things, who love always, to whom we whisper, at the end of the day, “thank you.”
Here’s a thought…take that hour you gain by “turning back the clock” (or at least part of it) and “turn back to God”…in your need, in your amazement, but mostly in your gratitude for the gift of life and love. You’ll be glad you did.
P.S. Both A Moment’s Pause for Gratitude and Help, Thanks, Wow are available in the JRC Bookstore, and make wonderful, thankful gifts.
Mary McCarty is a native of Southern California and has managed the bookstore at the Jesuit Retreat Center for over 4 years.