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Just How Blessed Am I Anyhow this Thanksgiving?

By       Message Don Williams     Permalink
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Around Thanksgiving 2005 I gave a talk “On Moonwalkers and Tree Huggers” at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church, a talk I wrapped up with the following advice.

Interact compassionately.

Think rationally.

Meditate mystically.

Reflect gratefully.

And, in the words of Shelby Spong, love wastefully….

More than anything else I credit such notions for whatever genuine satisfaction I've experienced most of my adult life. It sometimes surprises detractors to discover that, in spite of harping on problems facing this sad and jubilant world, I'm a pretty happy fellow most of the time.

I'm sort of like the aging company man in Jerry Maguire, the man in the grainy black and white film clip Tom Cruise watches teary-eyed in that movie, the one who says, “I love my wife. I love my life. And I wish you my kind of success.”

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It's a kind of success that requires an attitude of gratitude. As Garrison Keillor once said on “A Prairie Home Companion,” giving thanks is the key to happiness.

Can you say, Amen, Brother? It may be impossible to say anything truer than that about happiness, so let's say it again.

Giving thanks is the key to happiness.

It's a way of affirming life, of choosing hope over despair, faith over cynicism.

Abe Lincoln, a man who suffered what we'd call clinical depression--a man who suffered cataclysms and personal tragedies and incredible stress and carried the burden of national calamity, once said, “Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.”

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That's not to dismiss the sufferings of friends and relations who just can't find a way to be happy. I know when I'm sick, I'm a crank. And I know the first great principle of Buddhism is that All Suffer.

Still, Buddha prescribed transcending the suffering to achieve contentment, which is akin, at least, to Lincoln's prescription to make up your mind to be happy.

For me, that's almost synonymous with counting blessings.

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Don Williams is a prize-winning columnist, short story writer, freelancer, and the founding editor and publisher of New Millennium Writings, an annual anthology of literary stories, essays and poems. His awards include a National Endowment for the (more...)

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