Wednesday greetings to all.
Today, I want to talk with you about what it means for me to live my life with a grateful heart. This is deeply personal so bear with me as I open the book and move through some of the chapters of that book with you.
My first memories of living on this earth are pretty simple ones. The first thing that I can recall is a day in New Bedford, Massachusetts, the place where I was born. My grandparents (Memere and Pepere) had a wooden swing in their yard; you don't see these much anymore. It looked something like this:
The floor and seats were on runners, so you sat across from people sitting on the other side and you all simply rocked back and forth, back and forth. I believe that my heart began to take shape as a grateful one on days like that; simple days spent with grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, siblings, and cousins. I am grateful that my first living memory is of that swing upon which sat my extended family.
Our family (of four at the time; eventually there would be eight of us) moved to Burlington, Massachusetts (a suburb of Boston) when I was a toddler. Vivid memories of playing with my Dad and sister in the yard; curling up on the floor of our small apartment where the forced hot air vent would warm my little body on those cold New England mornings; snuggling with my Dad in his bed when I was scared or afraid of the dark. My heart surely had to have grown more grateful as I was surrounded by such warmth and unconditional love.
To this day, I cannot wrap my brain around those Christmas mornings while the eventual six of us were growing up. Even though we didn't know it at the time, we were either at or below the poverty level. Yet those Christmas mornings saw us walking into that living room and gazing in awe at those presents under the Christmas tree. Never, ever was there any sense that Christmas for us was anything but abundant. Open the gifts, go to Mass as a family, visit the outdoor creche at Saint Charles in Woburn, Massachusetts, come home and begin to play with our new toys and gadgets, then spend a day eating and playing cards and board games and the French-Candian version of parcheesi with our extended family. My heart would have been bursting with gratitude.
There were some darker days in my own childhood and adolescence as I suffered abuse at the hands of a teacher. I withdrew into the world of music as a way of shielding myself from the fact that my childhood was being stolen right from underneath me. In those days, there simply were no open doors for discussions about these things. When I finally forced that door open, a flood of gratitude filled my heart for parents who deeply lamented with me and were finally able to provide the shelter and protection that I needed for too many years. And even now, knowing full well that the person who I am was deeply affected by the horror of all that had occurred, somehow I am grateful to have survived (mostly intact!).
Folks, we all have our stories; we all have the chapters of sheer joy and exulatation; we have those chapters of disappointments and the melting of dreams; we have those chapters of struggle with addictions and wayward ways; we all have many chapters during which we simply moved along with the flow of life. The book is certainly unfinished for me.
And, frankly, in the deepest part of who I am, there is only one thing that I know is certain and true: I have a grateful heart right here and right now.
And what I am most grateful for at this time of thanksgiving is simply that awareness. Thank you, God.
Happy Thanksgiving to you all and I hope and pray that yours is a grateful heart, too.
Gotta sing. Gotta pray.