’Tis the season to be thankful. Just in time, I came across an exercise shared by Benedictine monk Brother David Steindl-Rast. When he’s waiting, say for a medical appointment, he goes through the alphabet. And with each letter, he considers what he appreciates about the first word that comes to him. I can see how focusing on gratitude would be more enjoyable than worrying about the mole you’re there to have removed or the root canal you’re about to have.
I tried it myself while I waited in my doctor’s office recently, but it didn’t start well. The first word that came to Brother David with A was “amazement.” Mine was “animosity,” maybe because before I decided to be grateful I’d been reading the newsfeed on my phone.
The first words that came to me with some other letters didn’t inspire gratitude either, like “kazoo” for K, “quantum physics” for Q and “halitosis” for H. But with each word I tried to find something to be thankful for. After some thought, I could see how animosity towards us is helpful if it alerts us that we’ve just stepped on someone’s foot or backed into their car.
As far as kazoos, I realized I was grateful that no one was playing one in the waiting room. I’m sure I’d find something to be thankful for about quantum physics too if I knew what it was. I’ll have to get back to you on halitosis.
I also struggled a bit with V for “vocabulary” until I realized this exercise wouldn’t work without it. Speaking of vocabulary, “effulgent” came to me with E because mine is so extensive. Also because it was on the cover of a magazine on the table in front of me. I’m grateful I was able to look it up on my phone and learn that it means radiant, which I also appreciate.
I thought of “coffee” with C even though I don’t drink it. I wanted to take it back and go with chocolate, but it was too late. And I do love the smell of coffee and the fact that it makes people less grumpy in the morning. Maybe if I drank coffee, animosity wouldn’t be the first word I think of with A.
F was “forensics” and S was “scream” probably because I read a lot of M for “mysteries.” O was for “opinion”—mine—because it’s always correct.
I must have been hungry because food words came to me with a lot of letters. T was “tacos,” R was “rigatoni,” D was “dessert” and I was “ice cream,” all of which I appreciate for the reasons you’d expect. N was “noon” because L was “lunch.”
P was proofreader, because without mine that might have read “N was ‘soon’” and that would have been wrong, though it does look good so close to L for “lunch.”
U was “undo,” specifically the undo function on my computer because it has saved my G for “gluteus maximus” many times. I wish we had undo buttons for everything, like when we step on someone’s foot or back into their car.
S was for “serendipity” which I love because it makes life seem magical and because it’s so fun to say. So are “bongo,” “xylophone,” “yodel” and “zither.” To learn what else I appreciate about them, see K for “kazoo.”
With J, I thought of Jack and Jill went up a hill to fetch a pail of water. I’m grateful that old Dame Dob was able to patch Jack’s nob with vinegar and brown paper.
By now, you’re probably thinking F for “finish.” So let me wrap up by recommending you try the practice yourself. It did make W for “waiting” seem almost P for “pleasant.” And it reminded me that there’s almost always something to be thankful for, though I’ve pretty much given up on halitosis.
Dorothy Rosby is the author of ’Tis the Season to Feel Inadequate; Holidays, Special Occasions and Other Times Our Celebrations Get Out of Hand and other books. Contact her at www.dorothyrosby.com/contact.