Viewpoint

An attitude of gratitude gives greater latitude

November 14, 2012 

The holiday season — love it or dread it, it’s here. It seems we just saw children heading back to school in August and suddenly realize Thanksgiving is next week. Every year we hope to be more prepared, less stressed, more able to enjoy what we have been told since childhood is a joyous, magical season.

Of course, it may not be that simple. Your Thanksgiving may consist of a quiet dinner for two. But usually there are many things to do, questions to answer. Who’s coming this year? Do we have enough space, beds, chairs, plates? What time shall we eat so we don’t interfere with the Macy’s Parade or sportscasts? Will the prized front lawn survive the kids’ football game?

Another big question: Who’s bringing what food? Is cousin Roz making the apple pies according to grandma’s recipe? Does vegan cousin Stephen need to sit at a table with only other nonmeat eaters? Is there a loving way to tell Aunt Charlene not to bring her lime Jell-O molded salad that no one eats?

Questions that may seem trivial any other time of the year can assume monumental time and importance when it comes to family dynamics. After all, we don’t want a family gathering to turn into Family Feud. All of this planning, shopping, preparing is part of the Thanksgiving tradition. It can be fun or it can leave many vowing that next year, someone else is going to host the day’s festivities.

Once we sit down to our Thanksgiving turkey, duck or tofu dinners, most people want to take a moment and express gratitude for the blessings in their lives through words and prayers. Even in the years where our family, our friends, our community or our nation have gone through tough times, we somehow realize the benefits and the necessity of saying “thanks” for all we do have. We in the San Luis Obispo area are especially blessed. Not only has Oprah Winfrey dubbed it “the happiest place” in the country, but most of us are pretty tickled just to be able to live here.

However, even in this happiest of all possible places, there are problems: homelessness, unemployment, violence and neglect. For some people, saying “thanks” this time of the year isn’t enough. They’re doing more. They may be out in the community helping the homeless, the working poor, the sick and the sick at heart. They may collect for charity, clean up the environment, serve meals at a church, synagogue or homeless kitchen. They may even be serving their country in the Armed Forces or as first responders in times of disaster. Whatever these people do, their way of giving thanks at Thanksgiving and any time of year helps all of us to realize our blessings.

This Sunday at 3 p.m., you have a chance to take a moment out of your busy schedule, have fun, be inspired and give something back to our wonderful community. The San Luis Obispo Ministerial Association’s annual Interfaith Thanksgiving Celebration is that chance. We’ll be at Congregation Beth David, 10180 Los Osos Valley Road, San Luis Obispo. As always, there will be laughter, singing and inspiration as people of many different faith traditions gather in joy and harmony.

We will also take a collection (both monetary and nonperishable food) for Prado Day Center, the SLO Women’s Shelter and Paso Robles Loaves and Fishes. We hope you’ll take time out of your holiday preparations to join us as we celebrate the season and express our gratitude for the many blessings we enjoy in our wonderful country.

The Rev. Stephanie Raphael is an Interfaith minister and immediate past president of the Ministerial Association of San Luis Obispo.

THANKSGIVING CELEBRATION

The Ministerial Association of San Luis Obispo invites the public to a free Interfaith Thanksgiving Celebration at 3:00 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 18, at the Congregation Beth David, 10180 Los Osos Valley Road, San Luis Obispo. Child care is available. Stay for refreshments and fellowship after the service. A free-will offering will be accepted and donations of nonperishable food items will be collected. For more information, contact the Rev. Stephanie Raphael at stephanieraphael228@gmail.com.

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