Prisoner of Thanks
I learned recently that gratitude in Hebrew is, "Aseer Todah," translating to "prisoner of thanks." Hebrew is a poetic language, so I wondered at first why the concept of gratitude would be associated with being a prisoner, and not something sweeter or more gracious. Of course, these days, most of the world is quarantined in their homes, dealing with the worst pandemic in our history, so the notion of being a self-imposed prisoner, and feeling grateful at the same time, holds some weight.
Thankfully, I am a grateful person. I think gratitude comes naturally, though I do believe it can also be self-induced manually, just by trying to be grateful. My Grandma GG, who turned 93 this week wakes up and thinks of several things she is grateful for. Her mother, G. Gram, did the same. I don't have that practice, but whenever things turn sour, I pretty quickly change my perspective to what there is to be grateful for. Even now, during lockdown of indefinite proportions, we are safe. We have what we need. We aren't with our extended family and loved ones, but we know they are tucked somewhere safe and have what they need. In some ways, we are closer together, all doing the same thing, just in different places.
We had our Passover Seder this week, our annual reenactment of being freed from slavery in the land of Egypt. We remind ourselves that we can't fully appreciate freedom without remembering deeply what it was to be slaves. All my dad's siblings, most of my cousins, my parents and my brother and his family were together on screen for our first digital seder, which proved to be one of the most special Passover experiences in my life.
Like a compass finding north, gratitude reorients every single situation to something better. Things can most certainly always be worse. My brother says his cancer diagnosis has been terrible, and also liberating. Even cancer has it's bright side, amidst the terribleness.
Instead of focusing on the prisoner part of Hebrew's "Aseer Todah", I believe gratitude is actually the key that unlocks each challenge. Gratitude is the key that finds the way out of any hopeless place, even if it is a very narrow path. You can keep being grateful for the ever more tiniest of things. Innately humble, gratitude reminds us that nothing we have can be taken for granted. Gratitude is the greatest liberator. I don't mean this in a trite way, I really, really, mean it. If this is my sentence as a prisoner of gratitude, I gladly accept.