It’s almost Thanksgiving. While I am dreaming of dinners gone by and craving the sweet mix of mashed potatoes and cranberries, my thoughts are focused on gratitude. I often ponder how people I’ve met on this journey practice explicit thankfulness for things I take for granted. Is there is a connection between dissatisfaction and excess and is it possible that scarcity intensifies gratitude?
While dining at Queen of Sheba DC restaurant, I met the owners and was smitten by their vibrant personalities and outgoing charm. I love watching people in their element, especially entrepreneurs who overtly share so much of themselves as they provide for others. Over delicious injera and vegetables, I learned a bit of their life stories including their recent return to Ethiopia after years of living in Washington, DC. I shared how I aimed to learn about projects that share hope with Ethiopian people. Queen suggested we visit St. George’s Cathedral as one of her customers speaks highly of their work serving elderly people.
While touring the church, we learned about an effort to provide medical and financial support to over 160 women. We visited a small room that served as a lab facility where volunteers diagnose ailments and often treatment options. We also met Yamerot who lives on the church grounds in a humble home she says meets her needs. After her husband died, she found herself facing financial hardships, but felt blessed that the church provided her with a living space. While you could see that Yamerot carried burdens from life, even with our language barrier, I sensed her genuine pride in sharing her home with us. There was a great grace in her pride – but also a sincere warmth in her appreciation for our time together.
Queen brought a huge circle of humbasha bread that we happily shared after it was blessed by the local priest. We sat and enjoyed this meal with great joy and thankfulness. Even without an abundance of multiple courses and endless food, it felt like a celebration of gratitude…a thanksgiving so far from home.
As I continue to understand and share about mental health, I am finding through research and interactions with people that a doggedly focused attitude of gratitude can promote positive mental health. While it’s not the only answer, the benefits of focusing on what we have, instead of what we want can be powerful.
During this busy week, I wish you all a bucket of time to make Thanksgiving an authentic opportunity to enjoy the abundance of joy granted by thankfulness. I will forever be reminded that people all over the world practice faith and gratitude with less.