Thanksgiving is this week, once my favorite holiday since it’s based on a sentiment we tend to forget most of the time. But I seem to be losing my focus on one big day of “thanksgiving” and making slow, but steady progress toward thanks for every day. Earlier this year I took a day trip with a neighbor to visit an art museum, a home turned into an artists’ colony back at the turn of the twentieth century. Rain was threatening but I was determined not to let a little rain ruin an outing and fortunately it held off for most of the day.
Living in New England for a long time, I’ve visited many a historic house or castle, admired the antique furnishings and art, impressed with how “we” lived in prior centuries, at least the few well-to-do who were fortunate enough to enjoy such houses. That day it dawned on me that perhaps I’d had my fill of these old houses and romanticizing the past, rather than explore today. But this one brought home just how much we take for granted in our present day lives. This was the lovely family home of a woman with little money, but the advantage of a lovely roof over her head, a rarity I’m sure for an independent woman in that age. She’d turned it into an artists’ colony in order to help with expenses. Even though I’d been there before, on this day it was brought home to me how even those with a little money lived, with outhouses, rather than indoor plumbing, or air conditioning, forget dishwashers or even a washing machine. The docent wasn’t even sure how or where they bathed, there was no evidence of bathrooms, or even a kitchen. Perhaps they bathed in the nearby river? In that era daily showers weren’t the norm they are now, especially in America.
These deficiencies stood out more because it was such an elegant, lovely, warm and inviting home. In the western world we take these things so for granted, but I was given a rude awakening that day. I take a washing machine and air conditioning for granted, a nice bathtub and shower are afterthoughts. The Griswold Museum http://florencegriswoldmuseum.org/ dates back a hundred years, but today there are still millions, even billions perhaps without basics such as indoor plumbing, and definitely no washing machine. As much as half the world’s population still washes clothes by hand, in rivers.. But I got the sense from the tour that this was a home filled with warmth and camaraderie, hospitality, and lots of frivolity, in spite of the absence of our modern conveniences. And most important, some great American art was produced.
So, this week, today, every day I’m thinking more about what really matters, where to place my thanks. I’ll be grateful for the advances we’re making daily around the globe toward more conveniences for everyone, for all those coming together to work on shared passions or causes, and those who volunteer their time, energy and resources to help their neighbors in times of strife. I’ll celebrate all those who came before me and thrived in spite of hardship, or fought and gave their lives so more of us could enjoy basic human rights, and simple freedoms. In short, I think I’ll just strive to find more to celebrate just in today.