Note from Casey: I am honored to share this Thanksgiving message from my good friend Jeff Schwartz. Jeff is also a fraternity brother. He and his wife Donna lost their daughter, Julie, in 1984 at the age of 3. Jeff has penned two stories we’ve shared on the website: Why I Believe In Angels and Lions On The Bridge. Once again, he has written something beautiful. I wish you all a peaceful Thanksgiving full of grace.
A Thanksgiving Note – November 25, 2015
By Jeff Schwartz
It is the day before Thanksgiving 2015 and I have a rare period of open space. This day I have time to reflect on several things, to share a few thoughts with you and to express my profound appreciation and gratitude to, and for, you.
This year my sister gave me a lovely gift – a free subscription to a video podcast from Oprah (Winfrey) and Chopra (Deepak, that is). The topic was “grace” – not something that I had not previously thought much about given my particular religious upbringing. (As one writer puts it, “the word ‘grace’ does not flow naturally from Jewish lips.”)
I have long been intrigued by athletes who are “graceful.” I have appreciated the charm and welcoming feeling of being received by a host or hostess who is “gracious.” In many ways, I have learned the power and wonder of “gratitude.” Again, a gift from my sister – an introduction to Rev. Cecil Williams of Glide Memorial Church in San Francisco some years ago, who introduced me to the phrase and importance of “an attitude of gratitude.” But I had never before connected all those with the word “grace.”
I won’t take you through all that Oprah and Chopra presented. But here’s the essence: “Grace, always perfect, even when life isn’t, is available all the time. And the portal to grace is gratitude. Embracing the feelings and behaviors of gratitude can help open up the passage to grace.”
I found those ideas tremendously enlightening. On days when life is not perfect – from small things like delays in getting served in a fast food restaurant to large things like the horror of Paris bombings – we have an opportunity and mechanism for choosing grace in our responses instead of behaviors that range from annoying to gruesome. The portal, the passageway is focus on gratitude — in small things and large. We can recognize at any moment there is an opportunity for appreciation of small moments of wonder, kindness, insights, laughter, and beauty – as well as larger blessings we may too often take for granted.
As Thanksgiving approaches, it is a perfect time for me to more fully embrace all the gratitude I feel. I am deeply grateful for my family — my immediate family, my family of origin, and my spiritual family (the kinship of spirit not blood). As they say in Hawaii, my ohana.
I am incredibly grateful for my clients, colleagues, coaches, and co-conspirators in my consulting and coaching practice. You know who you are.
I am grateful for dear friends – long-time ones and new ones, ones who helped see us through our darkest days and who helped celebrate with us our happiest moments.
I am also deeply grateful for the strangers and teachers who bring light to illuminate a better path forward.
Here’s one moment of illumination that I want to share with you in closing. It comes from a woman whose mother was dying. She brought a picture of her mother to her mother’s bedside to celebrate with her the triumphs of her mother’s life. But her mother surprised her by saying, “I’ve always hated that picture. It shows me striding purposefully down the street in my professional life, while all the while I was missing what was most important.” The mother continued (and the daughter explained) in an article in the Washington Post,
“What the dying want us to do — and wish for us to know — is to regard our lives as precious moments making up our days. They want us to focus less on the big picture of building a large body of evidence that proves our accomplishments, and more on the true wonders in our life — the kind where we find unexpected beauty that will be remembered with a wistful smile.” – Rosas, “What the Dying Want Us to Know about Living: Death teaches us not to rush past the things we’ll wish we had more of at the very end of life,” Aug. 25, 2013, http://www.purpleclover.com/health/875-what-dying-want-us-know-about-living/?icid=maing-grid7|main5|dl7|sec1_lnk3%26pLid%3D366670
This moment I choose not to rush by, but to wish all of you a peaceful, joyful Thanksgiving and invite you to join me in true gratitude for the many wonders and blessings of the moment and of this life.
Thank you, mahalo, gracias,