Being Thankful

David Shatzman

I met David through my mother in law, Helene,  probably 15 or more years ago, when he decorated her house in Florida.  Fast forward to today, we have both undergone a lot of changes in our lives, and somehow both landed in North Carolina.  The photo above is his beautiful property.  He drove up to see Helene when she visited us last month.  It was nice to see him, and his enthusiasm, style, and talent were still greatly evident.  We’re Facebook friends now, and I look forward to his daily musings.  Most of them, to be honest, are a little over my head, but each of them give me something to think about.  This morning something he wrote really jumped out at me.  

“Human kindness and understanding … opens everything good in life – humor, joy, sym-pathy, love, friendship… Why live another way, when doing, so surely invites a world full of aggravation, uncertainty and competition? Imagine, missing good because of a fearful heart, manifesting as bad behavior? I think, it is, all fear, and unknowing…

Then I think, oh, of course, everyone learns and learning always dances with suffering – so, I feel better, not that other people suffer and learn, but that I am , at least in this case, normal – and it helps me to understand endless reasons to be kind and understanding.

Lately I have been thinking about being Thankful.  There’s a Facebook thing going around…20 days of thanks…starting today and leading up to Thanksgiving.  I am thankful for so many things, I don’t think I can fit them all in a list of 20.  But David’s status this morning reminded me that I am thankful that I have been fortunate to know so many wonderful, different, interesting people in my life.  People who, just like me, love, laugh, cry, feel sad, have friends, give to others, feel insecure, are sometimes competitive, desire to learn, but who might have been raised in a completely different environment than I was.  They might have different beliefs than I do, whether religious, political, child-rearing, dietary…you name it, but underneath it all, we’re all just learning to live our lives in a meaningful way.
“Human kindness and understanding” is a learned behavior  and we’re all learning.  
I grew up with a wonderful, loving family, and they mean the world to me.  I learned so many things from them.   My religious beliefs were planted when I was very young.  I was surrounded by other people who believed the same things I did, my family and my church friends.  It was easy to believe what I believed because I wasn’t questioned.  I fit right in.  Later in life I met lots of different people with vastly different beliefs.   One night after dinner, I was sitting around a table with some friends who were raised Jewish.  One person asked me a question that I had never been asked before.  To be completely honest, I don’t remember the exact question, but it was about my religion and “Why” I believed what I did.  I don’t need to get into the logistics of the actual question, or how I stammered the canned answer I had been told my whole life, but the thing I took away from the conversation was I needed to learn more about “Why?”  I didn’t need to research Bible verses…I knew that already.  I wanted to learn why I believed that was the definitive answer.  My research strengthened my faith even more.  I started thinking that the people I knew who had found their faith later in life, whether converted Jews, Christians, or something else, seemed to have a much stronger conviction in their beliefs.  They had come to it on their own.  It also made me realize that the fear I had in earlier years of anyone who believed differently than I did came from unknowing.  I was afraid someone would question me, and I was afraid of someone who had different beliefs than I did.  What I have learned is that human kindness and understanding are not qualities specific to any religion.  I know people with different beliefs who are better people than I have ever known.  And I learn things from them.  When I married a Jewish man, I worried that his friends and the jewish community would always know I was different, and treat me differently.  My experience has been anything but that.  But I know that there are probably people who do feel a little uncomfortable around me, because I have different beliefs.  Their feelings are from unknowing, and unknowing causes fear.  I represent something they aren’t familiar with.  
Underneath it all, we are the same.  We are human beings, learning, always learning, and always trying to be the best we can be.  And today, I am thankful for all the human beings I have met along the way, and appreciate that I can still learn and grow. 
David Shatzman’s photo

To see more of David’s work, visit his blog!

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