Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Impulse to Thank

Since before recorded history began, man has had an instinct to thank. Most often, this looked like what you and I would likely label superstition: the top 3 recipients of thanks would probably be ancestors, invisible spirits or deities, and nature -- whether the stars, the universe, or Mother Earth.

Not that thanks is necessarily an innate habit we practice on a regular basis. It's frankly rare to find someone who has a continual "attitude of gratitude." But when something goes particularly well, when the outcome of a dicey situation is the one we were hoping for, or, as if often the case with me, when we're overwhelmed by beauty, we find ourselves wanting to thank...something, someone.

It's even built into our language, although long gone are the days when the spontaneous expression "Thank God!" was always meant literally. Those who are uncomfortable uttering the name of a deity substitute "goodness" or "lucky stars." The point is, it's practically impossible to escape at least an occasional sense of thankfulness.

For my part, even in the seasons of my life where I was determined to carry a grudge against God because my life didn't look like I wanted it to, I have found myself unwittingly thanking him for a sunset that took my breath away. Or sons who are wise enough to choose amazing young wives for themselves.Or a Discovery Channel documentary that showcases the exquisite marvels of the planet we live on. And no matter how I have felt toward God at any given moment, I have personally never been able to thank the Big Bang for these things. It is a goal of mine to be thankful a whole lot more of the time; in the meantime, I'm just a part time God thanker.

Coming up is a day that was set aside by President Lincoln (see my post on the history of Thanksgiving here) specifically to give thanks for our blessings. While some may ignore the thanksgiving part and just enjoy the food, football or family part -- and others may care nothing about the day and resent the fact that everything is closed -- I will be glad there is a day we are reminded that there is always something to be grateful for. And once we start listing the blessings, it may actually be difficult to stop.

Thank God.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Paramedics Urgently Needed in Haiti

As you have undoubtedly heard, Haiti, as if its other ordeals weren't enough, has been hit by an outbreak of cholera -- the first such outbreak in the Western Hemisphere since a 1991 epidemic in Peru that spread to 16 other countries. Over a thousand victims have died already, with almost 17,000 hospitalized. If the epidemic continues unchecked, the ramifications could be on a level rarely seen in our generation.

Paramedics are urgently needed. My contact with Hope Force International, a Nashville-based relief agency, says responders must have a current EMT-P license -- EMT's cannot be accepted at this time.
Please help us spread the word. Those interested can contact Christine Thompson at 

Monday, November 1, 2010

All Hallows E'en

Halloween, primarily celebrated in English-speaking countries, is a bizarre mixture of traditions from different periods of history. Over the last couple of decades, marketers have attempted to spread this Anglo-Saxon tradition to other countries, with varying degrees of success. When we lived in Europe, there was an increasing interest in certain aspects of Halloween, but is has never caught on to the extent to which it is celebrated in the US.

No one knows for sure when the tradition began, but most historians agree it traces its origins to a Celtic celebration called Samhain, whose names roughly means 'summer's end.' It was believed that, at this time of year in particular, there was a thin line between this world and the "otherworld," allowing different kinds of spirits to come and go. Hence the necessity to disguise oneself as a harmful spirit in order to ward off harm.

What is ironic is the origin of the name Halloween -- originally All Hallows E'en -- as in the eve of All Hallows, or All Saints Day. All Saints Day has been celebrated on Nov. 1 by the Catholic church, and more recently, other denominations as well, since the 7th century. This is traditionally a day in which the saints -- known and unknown -- are remembered.

Another great example of the strange juxtaposition in our culture of Christian and pagan elements. On one day, inordinate attention is given to the dark side, the Underworld -- and the very next day the saints are honored. The term "melting pot" could not be more à propos.