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In the Scheme of Things


Nan Russell

Nov 1, 2013

The Question

The Question

Well before 6:30 a.m., our local paper in one hand, and a plate of scrambled eggs fresh from the skillet in the other, I sat down to my morning ritual before embarking on a heavily scheduled Monday. But, one bite changed my plans.

My gentle morning wake-up time quickly shifted as I felt the rock-like substance in my mouth. Immediately, I knew what it was. Once again, I had chipped a tooth or broken a crown. How many times had it happened? A half dozen; a dozen; more? No matter what night guard apparatus is configured on my teeth's behalf, I manage to grind and crack them in my sleep.

Despite a gracious dental staff who immediately had me come in, and a booked dentist who made time to craft and fit a crown, I wasn't feeling much gratitude about spending a morning with them. Rather, the reality of a half day "lost" added stress. As I arrived home, I was in an un-delightful, self-absorbed mood, feeling the rainy day that was happening outside also was on the inside.

A call with a mentoring client a few hours later changed that. It wasn't anything she said, it was something I did. I mentioned that Ben Franklin wrote in his autobiography about a morning question and an evening question. Upon waking he would ask, "What good shall I do this day?" At day's end reflecting on, "What good have I done today?"

His morning question hit me. Wrapped up in my tiny woe-is-me dental drama, I hadn't thought about it. In fact, I hadn't thought about it for some time. Somewhere between books to write and projects to finish, bills to pay and a house to sell, need-to-dos and want-to-dos, I'd left out get-to-dos.

Isn't that what Thanksgiving season is about -- being grateful not only for what we have -- but for what we have to give? The blessings we have, the wonders of life, the joys of family, the connections of hearts fill us with gratitude and thanks. But, shouldn't we be just as grateful for what we have to give to life? I wake each morning with work to do, passions to follow, people to love, ideas to share, and books to write. I'm thankful for what I get to do.

In the scheme of things, it seems often what grinds us down the most isn't having too much to do. It's not the cracked teeth, worries or challenges life brings as much as the forgetting. We forget what it means to be alive.

We forget how fortunate we are to raise a child, to still have a parent no matter how elderly, a significant other, or people in our life who need us. We forget we have opportunities because of the work we do, the people we meet, the talents we have to add to this world. We forget living is really about giving.

At this time of Thanksgiving, as we give thanks for all we have received and for others who make our lives better, happier, and easier, I hope we pause to consider what we have to give. The world needs our gifts, talents, kindness, tolerance, and love; it needs our ideas, perspectives, experiences, and wisdom. Whether it's reading to a child or solving a crisis, what we have to give keeps us alive, in the deepest sense. One thing I know, I'm starting mornings again with the question: "What good shall I do this day?"

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