I love the month of November. I always have. From the moment I turn over the calendar page, November is a month that speaks to me of gratitude and grace.
When I became Catholic, November 1st and 2nd quickly became my favorite feasts in the Church calendar. Celebrating the humanity and holiness of those souls who have gone before us, known and unknown, reminds me that there is a powerful spiritual bond between the living and the dead. As I have grown older, many friends and family members have joined the ‘heavenly hosts’ of ancestors whose names I speak in prayerful memory. Their pictures decorate my November prayer space. I cherish this month that is set aside to remember, honor, and celebrate these beloveds. I am grateful for the love that I have known and that continues sustains me.
As I child I remember coloring pictures of cornucopias overflowing with abundance. Thanksgiving Dinner meant our table of eight exploded into double digits that included grandparents and other relatives or friends. Hymns of gratitude and bounty were sung that still echo in my heart: “Now Thank We All Our God”…”We Gather Together…” “For The Beauty of the Earth.” November meant raking the last of the leaves into crunchy piles and walking in the woods behind our house on a search for pine cones and oddly shaped acorn clusters.
Age, of course, has widened my worldview and expanded my heart. Twenty months of a global pandemic has surely reshaped us all. The departed souls worldwide this year include more than 5 million deaths to COVID-19. For too many, life has included more loss than abundance: loss of jobs, homes, relationships, family milestones and rituals.
Yet it is during these challenging times when we most need to practice gratitude and look for the grace that surrounds us. In my own life, I am enormously grateful for the front line medical workers who have risked their own lives and health to help others. I am grateful for the technology that has made it possible for me to continue to minister and to connect with friends and family.
How can we use this unwanted pandemic to grow our resilience and gratitude? How can we use the power of shared gratitude to appreciate how much we depend on one another?
November 13 is World Kindness Day (another reason to love November). The purpose of this day is “to help everyone understand that compassion for others is what binds us all together. This understanding has the power to bridge the gaps between [us].” To celebrate this day I am pledging to do at least one intentional act of kindness to benefit someone else. This will be my small way to bring a bit more abundance into the lives of my dear neighbor. It will also be one more way I name the gratitude and graces in my own life.
Because in the end, gratitude connects us to our personal and global life stories and to the meaning at the center of that story. It connects and grounds us to what matters.
Who and what are you grateful for today?
What simple act of kindness could you do for someone today that could inspire gratitude?
About the Author
Sister Judith Minear currently serves as part of a 3-member team for CSJ Ministries as Coordinator for Mission Integration. CSJ Ministries is the umbrella organization that works with ministries that are members of our Mission Network. In her free time, she loves drawing zentangles, stalking birds and savoring poetry.