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A time for thanks

It's time for thanks. But, how often do we put off expressing gratitude and appreciation only to find the opportunity lost? Maybe you overlooked the mechanic in the repair shop whom you have trusted for years. When you discover he's left the job, you realize how much you valued his expertise and never took the time to express your appreciation.

For me, it's easy to take for granted the people who show up at the dog park every morning at sunrise. Both my dog and I look forward to greeting them and sharing a few moments of the day. I appreciate their presence, yet what prevents me from thanking them for being a regular part of my life?

What about the friendly clerk at the post office or the grocery store? The dental hygienist who cleans your teeth? The neighbor across the street? The friend who lives a thousand miles away? How often do we tell them that they are appreciated?

People die. People move away. And suddenly it's too late - we've missed our opportunity. Our hearts ache with regret. Voila! We can learn the importance of expressing gratitude.

Yes, it's Thanksgiving time - time to give thanks to those we love, time to give thanks for nature's beauty and fresh air, and time to give thanks for the freedom and opportunities we enjoy in our lives.

As we face local, national and global challenges including health care, a failing economy and environmental crises, focusing on all we have to be grateful for is essential to our well-being. Appreciating the small things, appreciating that which inspires and sustains you, and appreciating the importance of connecting with others are daily opportunities to live in gratitude.

Gratitude dissipates fear and that, in turn, reduces anxiety. With an attitude of gratitude, we can begin the day with prayers of thanks for being alive. We can turn to our beloved partner and say, "Thanks for being with me for another day."

Hug the children and remind them that they are blessings in your life. Do random acts of kindness leaving behind a silent trail of goodwill. Pet the pets. Befriend the elderly. Intentionally take time to gaze at the stars and smell the autumn leaves as they become mulch for the winter.

Behold the wonder of the sun peeking through the morning mist while an eagle soars above. Let your ears tingle with pleasure at the sound of the Dungeness River as it winds its way or the waves of the strait lapping against the shores of our beaches.

What treasures in your life are you grateful for? Good health? Peace of mind? A job that satisfies you? Do you allow yourself to focus on the small things each and every day - and be grateful as those small things fill your heart with gratitude?

Opening your heart to gratitude also opens it so that more good may come into your life. A simple daily practice of listing 10 things that make you happy, 10 parts of your body that function well, 10 people who have helped you in the past and 10 things in nature that move you deeply will activate an attitude of gratitude. You will be surprised and pleased at the difference it makes.

Instead of complaining, express appreciation. Speak positively and lovingly. See everything as a blessing - even when it comes disguised in unpleasant trappings.

It's easy to give thanks for what we perceive to be beneficial but sustainable gratitude comes when we are willing to be thankful for any fortune - good or bad. Gratitude is not an action but a state of being.

Extending kindness by serving your community is a way of saying thanks - a way to give back and feel connected. Volunteer as a tutor, an aid for the elderly or join a trail maintenance team. Seeing a need and filling it makes you part of a circle of giving and receiving.

At the end of each day, reflect on where you've been, whom you've met and how much you have enjoyed that particular day. Give a thousand thanks for every breath you take. Gratitude is the sweetest of all - once, twice, a hundred times.

My thanks to all of you reading this column and to the publisher and editor who afford me this space for self-expression. Thank you.

Ruth Marcus' column appears the fourth Wednesday of the month. She has a private counseling practice in Sequim. Visit www.DrRuthMarcus.com for more information.





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