As Thanksgiving approaches here in the Western world, Santas are sighted in fast food restaurants grabbing a quick coffee and menus and gift lists are divvied amidst a flurry of activity.
What tops my wish list this season is my longing for wonder and awe. There’s “stuff” that would please—anything flannel; everything dark chocolate—but what really floats my boat are the tiny little miracles that let me know Someone is watching over me: the unexpected kindness, the proof positive that the road taken or not taken was—Hallelujah!—my best right choice; the out of the blue extraordinary beauty of something ordinary that suddenly inspires gratitude or understanding or respect for how the Cosmic Order unfolds. When times are hard and fast, there’s nothing like wonder and awe to stop you smack dab in your tracks and set your heart right.
Thanksgiving is especially poignant this year given our isolation and disconnect. The very word “gathering” holds promise for our species. A family, a group of friends, a hodgepodge of strangers—a holiday people-weave—has more potential than ever before to draw people close. The very word “gathering” is ripe with possibility: “to assemble, collect, and harvest” and thus, hopefully “increase;” “to deduce information” and thus, hopefully “better understand.” If you say the word slowly, the “a” and “er” sounds vibrate in the chest—in the heart; and the “ing” sound evokes the joy that permeates a loving rendezvous.
One way to bring “ing” to your Thanksgiving table is to gather your inner resources and share your stories with others. The stories we choose to tell—the ones that are most meaningful to us—actually declare the autobiographical nature of our personal theology, the intimate way God or wonder and awe and revelation show up in our lives. Our stories allow us to savor and build on and pass on how living our lives in ways that are meaningful to us, demonstrates what is holy to us.
And, as is often the case, telling our story helps someone within earshot better understand and lay claim to their story. It demonstrates that we are more alike than we are different, that we are not alone, that a story is often told at a time when someone else needs to hear it. Psychoanalyst Erik Erikson called this phenomenon “generativity,” the ability to extend love into the future.
Embracing this bigger picture can also move us beyond the confines of personality and circumstance, beyond outer limitations. It also makes the space for an experience of enduring love to emerge. Disappointments happen in every life, but challenge builds resilience and commitment to what we value most. Change begins—personally and globally—with the simple act of talking about what we deeply care about.
Gather your resources. Keep your stories focused on what matters to you, how you grew or prospered or deepened through an experience. Mythologize rather than catastrophize your challenges. Speak from your heart. Build bridges. When we let our stories happen to us, as the storytellers in COMING HOME: Finding Shelter in the Love and Wisdom of Paramahansa Yogananda have done, the Universe opens its doors to you. And, from wonder unto wonder, existence opens.
Holiday joy to you.
Margaret Wolff is a writer, storyteller, art therapist, and retreat leader. Her work celebrates the ways in which the collective wisdom and storytelling reveal the truth and beauty of our inner lives and connect us—heart to beating heart—to each other.
COMING HOME: Finding Shelter in the Love and Wisdom of Paramahansa Yogananda (White Pearl Press, May 20201), is a curated collection of 14 modern-day stories of spiritual awakening that reflect “the most creative and transformative experience life can offer—developing an intimate partnership with the invisible God of one’s heart.”
Available wherever fine books are sold.