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Getting Over Ourselves
By Susan Hines-Brigger

Q U I C K S C A N

Reasons to Be Thankful
For Teens: Be a Blessing for Others
For Kids: Falling Leaves



Recently I purchased a 2010 calendar for my planner and began the task of transferring and filling in dates for next year. As I started paging through the months of 2009, I began to realize that it really hadn't been the best of years for me and my family. Early in the year my husband lost his job. My daughter Maddie had been suffering from unexplained headaches and in late August my dad suffered a minor stroke. No, 2009 has definitely not been one of our better years. In short, I was feeling pretty down and sorry for myself.

To make matters worse, I was doing the transferring in a waiting room at Cincinnati Children's Hospital for a CT scan for Maddie in an attempt to figure out what was causing her headaches.

And then I saw him—a little boy carrying around a stuffed dog almost bigger than he was. He was bouncing around the waiting room, greeting everyone with a big, wide smile. For various reasons, it was obvious this little boy wasn't a stranger to the hospital, but you never would have known it from his attitude.

Then I noticed the little girl across the lobby with the IV's snaking from her arms, cuddled up next to her mom. And the teenage boy who walked by with his shiny, bald head peeking out from beneath his baseball cap.

Talk about a reality check. Sometimes we tend to get so bogged down by what's going on in our own lives that we fail to see outside ourselves. And guess what? There's a whole world out there beyond us with a whole lot of people who are worse off, but seem to be coping.

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Reasons to Be Thankful

This month, as we gather to celebrate Thanksgiving, is a good time to stop and realize how even in difficult times there are blessings. They might not be the type we want, but they're there. It's just a matter of looking for them.

For instance, when my dad had his stroke, my two sisters and I spent the entire evening at the hospital together with my parents laughing and talking. Later, when I recounted the evening to my husband, I shared how nice it was for us all to be together, which doesn't happen very often, even if it was under poor circumstances.

Reminding ourselves to be thankful isn't always easy. Here are some tips to help keep it fresh in our minds.

Name it. Sit down for 10 minutes and write down all the blessings in your life, or things for which you are thankful. When I did this recently, I put down things such as, "I'm thankful for the wonderful day that Maddie and I had together after her tests were done." Are they still challenges? Yes, but within those challenges are blessings to be found.

Keep things in perspective. The other day as I was surfing the Internet I saw an ad about how mosquitoes spread the West Nile virus here in the United States. The ad then went on to talk about the millions of people—most of them children—killed in Africa every year from malaria transmitted by mosquitoes. Sometimes it's good to step back from our own lives and think bigger. It's amazing how different everything can look when we do.

Have some fun. As your family gathers around the Thanksgiving table, have some fun and appreciate the blessing of being together. Here are some activities to try: www.usccb.org/laity/marriage/placemat.shtml and www. usccb.org/laity/marriage/if.shtml. For more articles and activities about celebrating Thanksgiving, visit www.catholicmom.com/thanksgiving.htm.

Say it. In our hectic lives, sometimes day, weeks, even months can go by without telling those who matter most what a blessing they are to us. Take advantage of the Thanksgiving holiday as a reminder to let those you care about know how much you appreciate them.

 

Volunteer opportunities abound for people your age. They range from tutoring or grocery shopping for an elderly neighbor or relative to working at the local food pantry or with organizations like the Ronald McDonald House. In fact, you can search the Web site (www.rmhc.org) for various volunteer opportunities in your area, such as sharing your talents to help entertain families staying at the house.

Gather up some of your friends and express thanks for the many blessings in your life by helping others. Just remember that, unfortunately, once the holidays are over, so is the rush on volunteering. So keep with it and continue your volunteer efforts once the holidays have passed.

One of my favorite things about autumn is the colorful leaves. I even like it when they fall to the ground and change the landscape from green to reds, oranges and browns—even if it does mean I have to rake them up. I find them truly to be a blessing.

The falling leaves are where we're going to get our inspiration this month. First, get some fall-colored paper. Then either draw or copy images of various types of leaves. On each leaf, write or draw a blessing. It could be that your grandparents are coming for Thanksgiving dinner. Maybe your friends are your blessings, or a warm, sunny autumn day. Whatever you feel blessed about, write it down. And ask your family to take part, too.

After everyone has written down his or her blessings, hang them throughout the house to make it look like the outside has come inside for a stay.

 

Do you have ideas or suggestions for topics you'd like to see addressed in this column? If so, send them to me at “Faith-filled Family,” 28 W. Liberty Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202-6498, or e-mail them to Family@franciscanmedia.org.


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