When I pause to consider the many reasons I have to be thankful this Thanksgiving, the list overwhelms me.
It reminds me of the old “pros” and “cons” list, which can be applied to many situations in life.
Say, for instance, you are really struggling with a decision. Will you or won’t you do this thing? Should you or shouldn’t you do that thing?
For starters, grab a piece of paper — or open that computer document — and draw a vertical line straight down the center of the page. You can even download templates of a pro-con list, if that helps.
At the top of the left column, write the word “pros,” “yes” or “for.” On the other, “cons,” “no” or “against.”
Then proceed to write under the appropriate heading all reasons that come to mind for either doing or not doing.
If you are fair and honest with yourself and your situation, you won’t consciously weight one column so heavily that the scale will be tipped to favor the decision that already seems more appealing to you.
Just because you can do something does not mean that you should. Just because 99 out of every 100 people are taking a certain course of action does not make it right, or make it best for you.
I have used the pro-con list for a number of occasions in my life. For instance, it is helpful when trying to reach a conclusion about something weighing heavy on my mind.
It works with finances, too. Write on one side of the ledger the amount of your income. On the other, note all of your monthly obligations, and don’t forget to add some for the incidentals. Life happens.
As an aside, my dad used to say a good rule of thumb was to figure the anticipated cost of something — say, for instance, lodging and meals during a vacation — then multiply that times two and plan accordingly. I wish I had taken that mindset more often in my life. I would have been better prepared and less stressed so many times.
The old pro-con list also is helpful for those times when the pressures of life seem to close in on us and we find ourselves wondering how we will find a way out. We all face them.
On your divided page, write on one side all of the reasons you have to be thankful, or the goodness and pleasantness in your life. On the other, jot down what you perceive to be issues that challenge you, drag you down, make you sad or stressed or doubt yourself.
Again, the list is worthless unless you are fair and honest in your assessment.
When you are straightforward, and when you think of the tiniest of matters in your life and the lives of those you love, your list is likely to be lopsided in favor of gladness rather than sadness. That is not to say there are not times of sorrow and disappointments. We all face those, too.
The self-measurement exercise sometimes is called taking inventory of one’s life.
To me, Thanksgiving has always seemed to be a good time to do it. (Some prefer year’s end, New Year’s Eve.)
I can speak only for myself, but I have found it part of my human nature to underappreciate so many good things in my life.
First, there is the gift of salvation that was made available through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is an eternal blessing for anyone who confesses his or her sins and receives Christ.
I am thankful for living in a country where the blessings of life and liberty — not the least of which is freedom of religion — abound.
I am thankful for my wife of 34 years, my soulmate, who one year ago was blessed with the gift of healing from the clutches of COVID-19.
I am thankful for my children, grandchildren — three of the smartest, prettiest and most handsome little people ever (he said unabashedly) — my mother, my mother-in-law and father-in-law, extended family and friends.
I am thankful for a good job in a good community and the opportunity to serve every day in my hometown.
The list goes on and on, but this column space is limited.
A favorite childhood prayer serves well: “Thank you for the world so sweet, thank you for the food we eat, thank you for the birds that sing, thank you, God, for everything.”