Thinking about Thanking

November 23, 2016

Recently I have been meeting weekly with an ESL student to give her practice speaking conversational English and increase her understanding of American culture. Naturally the subject of Thanksgiving has come up more than once.

The first time, she asked me what the word “thankful” meant. That surprised me, since this is not her first year in this country and her English vocabulary seems pretty good. I explained it meant “grateful,” which she did understand. (Which seems odd to me – I would have thought that the word thankful is used more often than grateful.)

(A Google search shows me that some people do distinguish between thankful and grateful, but there does not seem to be any consistency in how the two are distinguished, and other people use them interchangeably. It may be that, to some people, “thank you” is overused to the point of conveying less sense of genuine gratitude. Personally, I consider the two to be synonyms.) Read the rest of this entry »

Giving thanks

November 24, 2011

My list of things I’m thankful for really doesn’t change much from year to year. At least the big things don’t change – friends, family, church, health, a job, a home to live in, good schools for our sons, and the love and grace of God shown in so many ways.

When I think of what I am thankful for, though, I think also of lots of little things. For instance, this fall as I have been trying to eat more healthy foods, I am thankful for some healthy foods that also taste very good. I have come to enjoy quinoa cooked with chicken broth and mixed with peas, black beans mixed with corn and tomatoes, and blackstrap molasses as an all-purpose sweetener.

I have tried to cut out most of the sugar I had been eating, which means no more hot chocolate mix in my coffee, buying breakfast cereals with a lower sugar content, and no more brown sugar in my oatmeal. I also cut out diet pop and other artificially sweetened beverages, because Dr. Ann (whose book Eat Right for Life I have been trying to follow) points out that artificial sweeteners distort our sense of what tastes sweet. I guess she must be right, because last time I tried blackstrap molasses I didn’t like it at all. Now it tastes good, and I use it on my oatmeal, on my buckwheat pancakes, and in my coffee.

Dr. Ann also advises against eating white potatoes, along with white flour, white sugar, and white rice. But she says sweet potatoes are great, which is good, because I like them just as well as white potatoes. She also recommends that people trying to lose weight avoid dried fruit – with the exception of dried apricots, because they are so very healthy. And I have always loved dried apricots, so I’m glad of a reason to eat more of them.

I’m thankful for my bifocals, and for the low price at Walmart and the employee discount that made my new pair of bifocals affordable (about a fourth of what it would have cost at the clinic where I got my exam and prescription). I had put off getting a new pair, because I remembered how much the old pair had cost (at the clinic), even though that pair was nearly useless. I used a cheap set of reading glasses for the computer and other reading, though even with those I found myself squinting more often in recent months. And as for seeing things in the distance – things were blurrier with the glasses on than without them.

So I wasn’t surprised to find out that I am now slightly farsighted instead of nearsighted. Or that the prescription I needed for reading had changed a lot. What I was surprised was to find out that even bifocals cost less than $100 at Walmart now. I still can’t quite see the eye of a needle (but as someone explained to me how to use one of those wire needle threaders, it’s not a big problem), but I can read the clues to the crossword in the Friday Wall Street Journal without a magnifying glass. And things are nice and clear in the distance.

I’m thankful for the internet, which gives me the opportunity to have this blog, play Scrabble with a friend in Maryland, read the news from a number of sources, keep in touch with my sister by email, and look up all sorts of information. This week, for example, I found a recipe for a (relatively) healthy pumpkin pie, with no fat except in the eggs, the chopped nuts in the crumb crust, and the canola oil that I used in the crust in place of butter or margarine. I also cut down on the brown sugar (and used blackstrap molasses!), so it isn’t as sweet but still tastes quite good.

I am thankful for silence, when I can have it. One of the Plinky prompts this week asked, “Does silence make you uncomfortable?” I was going to answer, “Not at all! I love silence.” But my husband was listening to something on his computer (I don’t remember whether it was Rush Limbaugh, a TV show, or just some of his favorite music. And I find it hard to blog when I don’t have quiet to let my thoughts flow. I can faintly hear the washing machine downstairs, and the sound of the keyboard as I type, and the faint whir of the ceiling fan. But it’s pretty quiet right now.

Those are the kinds of things it’s easy to be thankful for. This column reminds us to be thankful for difficulties as well, because of what they teach us, and because they make us stronger. I do try to take that attitude toward difficulties when I am facing them. But when I sit down to list what I am thankful for, somehow those don’t seem to come to mind so quickly.

And because I am likely to miss some important things when I do try to list what I am thankful for, it is good to be able to borrow words others have written. For our prayer before dinner today, I printed out this thanksgiving litany from the Book of Common Prayer (another handy use of the internet, since I don’t own a copy of that book). And that’s one more thing I’m thankful for – books in general, whether for entertainment or education, but especially those that pass on wisdom that has stood the test of time.