And yet, Thanksgiving, like other festivals or holidays, can evoke conflicting emotions in us. Finding gratitude in one’s heart can be difficult when you are having a particularly hard time, or if previous years’ Thanksgivings have been trying, Or when others seem to have, be, or do so much in relation to us. Or when we feel compelled to do things we’d rather not do.
It is possible to turn our challenges around, though. Let me tell you a story.
In my life, Saturday was yoga-blanket-washing day. Forty-five cotton blankets take quite awhile to wash and dry, even at a commercial laundromat where there are jumbo machines. A few years ago I blew out my home dryer in the process of washing about ten blankets, so I started to go to the laundromat instead.
I was feeling a little sorry for myself having to do this on a holiday weekend. And it was hard work. The dryers only run for four minutes at a time and I had about ten of them going, so I constantly was plugging quarters for about two hours. Maneuvering, folding, and repacking them into one of three hockey bags was hot and cardiovascularly effective – my heart rate was in the 140 – 150 range a good part of the time.
At first the laundromat was empty. But over the course of the afternoon many people came and went. Some didn’t have their own machines. Others’ home machines had broken down. A couple of people came in to wash big comforters and sleeping bags.
The open door to the corridor to the bathroom had a sign indicating that the bathroom was closed due to people making a mess and drinking alcohol in there. I found the toilet open and usable, but the fact that people spend their leisure time doing laundry and, at the same time, drinking or getting sick or vandalizing the bathroom, evoked a huge sense of compassion in me. We all are human and that scenario could play out in the lives of any of us.
I also felt a surge of gratitude come over me. First, how fortunate I am to have home laundry facilities, something I largely take for granted. Secondly, grateful that I have yoga blankets to offer students for their use when they practice yoga with me, and that I could afford to buy them. Thirdly, that people want to spend time learning about yoga from me. Fourthly, that my life circumstances lead me to pursue yoga as a practice and a vocation and fifthly, that my family wholeheartedly supports me in the endeavor. Additionally, that I made a seemingly mundane and yet profound connection with others in that laundromat. And finally, that someone chooses to run a laundromat; certainly not a sexy or hugely lucrative endeavor. I could go on, but I’m sure you get my drift.
There are more weighty and appealing gratitude stories out (Maeve Binchy novels and Chicken Soup for the Soul books come to mind), but I wanted to share a surprising challenge-turned-gratitude event from my humble day. When did you feel thankful today? Was it a surprise to you?