Dear People of Saint Peter’s,
I am sure I have told you this story before or possibly you have heard it before, but it is well worth repeating. There is a story about a woman who gave birth to two twin boys. As the children grew, it became very clear that while they look a lot alike physically, they behaved very different. One boy was hopelessly pessimistic.
No matter what happened, he always saw it in the worst possible way. The other boy was the complete opposite and was totally optimistic. By the time the boys reached age ten, the poor mother could take it no longer and decided to seek professional help. Her pediatrician referred her to a child psychologist. After meeting with her and the boys, the psychologist designed a special treatment. When the boys came in one day, he took the children from their mother and locked them each into a separate room. The optimist was locked in a room full of cow manure and the pessimistic twin was placed into a room full of toys. Three hours later, the psychologist brought the mother to the two rooms, confident that the intervention had worked. They first opened the door to the pessimistic boy in the room of toys and they found him sobbing uncontrollably. The mother rushed into the room to comfort him and the psychologist asked him why he was crying. The boy said that all of toys frightened him because he knew that if he played with them, he would surely break one and thought he would get into trouble. They went to see what had become of the optimistic twin. They opened the door and there was the boy running around the room and throwing up manure in every direction. The psychologist runs over and grabs the boy and asks him what he is doing. The excited child looks at him and said, "With all this manure, I am sure there HAS to be a pony in here somewhere! I am going to find it!!!"
It is amazing how our mindset can affect the way we approach and experience the world. Things that happen to us can strike us very differently depending upon what is going on inside of us. If we are tired, we may find we lack the patience to endure something that we would normally just let roll off our back. Conversely, something that would normally challenge us, may not seem so significant after we are well rested and experiencing a "good day". Our interior life can really effect how we see and interpret the world.
We have come to the month of November, and on the secular calendar the most significant holiday is Thanksgiving. As Americans, we remember the arrival of our forbearers on North American shores, who did not quite know how to survive life in the New World. We commemorate their endurance with a big meal to give thanks for God's providence, the harvest and the kindness of the indigenous natives who showed the pilgrims how to survive. Of course, as Christians, Thanksgiving is nothing new! We believe that every day, every thing, every experience is cause for Thanksgiving or thanking God for his grace, care and compassion. Indeed, an alternative term for Holy Communion is THE GREAT Thanksgiving! And so, as we come to this holiday, we are also conscious of coming to a significant spiritual practice--one well worthy of us consciously redoubling our efforts to practice.
This November, this Thanksgiving, let us try to emulate the optimistic twin. Try, as much as possible, to eschew complaining, judging, and interpreting the actions of others. I know it may sound like a tall order for some of us, I know that it is something that I will probably trip up on, but I truly believe that it is a practice that can really help us reconnect with God. So here's the challenge--you are welcome to select one or try them all if you can:
For one month, try NOT to complain at all--if you start, stop yourself as soon as you can.
Before you close your eyes to sleep each night, try to think of five things you are thankful for that happened to you during the day.
Begin a journal of Thanksgiving--try to keep a list of people, places, and things that you are thankful for and pull it out when you are feeling unfortunate or sad. For each day of the month, write a thank you note to someone who has done something for you or for whom you really thank God for bringing them into your life. Commit to saying thank you to everyone who serves or assists you, either because it is their job or because they help and care for you.
Saint Julian of Norwich, famously once said, "Count all as gift!" Strive to look for the blessing in each moment— after all, that is why we call the now, the present!
Please keep me in your prayers and know that you are daily in mine.