“It is lack of love for ourselves that inhibits our compassion toward others. If we make friends with ourselves, then there is no obstacle to opening our hearts and minds to others.” ~ Anonymous
Today is Thanksgiving day, 2012, USA. Here are a couple of photos from earlier. The first is of my simple yet sweet dinner table before all the food and family filled things in and then there's me taking the Turkey out of the oven (ta-dah!)
I cooked it in a bag and seasoned it with celery salt, sage and thyme. It came out pretty tasty and tender--along with the homemade cranberry sauce, stuffing, gravy, mashed potatoes, green beans and macaroni & cheese. Not to mention the fresh baked bread. And that was just the meal. I served appetizers and dessert too. For dessert I baked an apple, pumpkin and chocolate cream pie. I may not have to eat until next Thanksgiving.
Each year on Thanksgiving my kids and I partake in two traditions. I started them years ago when my oldest was still in Pre-school. I have a number of traditions I've begun with my kids for different reasons. My thinking is that by having their own traditions it gives them a sense of comfort and safety no matter what else is going on in their lives.
For Thanksgiving, the first is simple enough, I buy a balloon and fill it with helium. We each write things we want to let go of before we enter the Christmas Holiday Season and things we are grateful for on little post it notes, attach them to the balloon and then go out into the yard together to let it go and watch it as it floats away and carries our wishes with it. It's always a unique experience.
Today it seemed we could spot the yellow happy face with pilgrim hat balloon floating away for miles. I could see it above a big puffy cloud then it would disappear and then one of us would spot it again until it was too far out of sight.
Our second Thanksgiving tradition takes a little more preparation. We look for a way to help some one or even a small group of people. I make a point to find someone in need beyond the traditional ways like the local food pantry. Because I find this way leaves a more lasting impression on my kids and helps them to deepen their compassion for those less fortunate then them.
That first year we were living in Dallas and we made over 30 turkey brown bag lunches and passed them out ourselves to people milling about outside the Homeless Shelter. The first year we moved to Cape Cod we purchased gift cards and on our way to a Family get together in Worcester we passed them out outside the homeless shelter there. One year it was hats and mittens.
What started this last tradition comes from something deeply personal to me. When I was young I didn't see my Father from when I was five until about nineteen. There were a number of years that I felt confused. At one point, I realized he was staying in a homeless shelter for a period of time. He passed away six years ago. Seeing someone so close to me suffer like that has showed me that not everyone who is less fortunate is lazy or doesn't care.
Sometimes, people really do need the kindness and caring from people around them that have a little something extra to give. And that we can never really know just how much a simple act of random kindness can do to make the life of someone else better.
My hope is that when my children are grown they will remember the importance of having compassion for themselves first and then finding ways to share it with others.