Friday, January 09, 2009

Gratitude lists

Friends of mine who go to a lot of AA and/or Al-Anon meetings tell me that they benefit from making gratitude lists on a regular basis. They say that if they're in the habit of listing what/whom they're grateful for when things are going well, they're more likely to make a gratitude list when things are difficult. An attitude of gratitude, especially when times are tough, is a sign of spiritual health and maturity.

So, while things are peachy, here's a gratitude list.

Among the niceties of being CONUS (in the Continental United States; Army-speak) are being able to wear my non-ballistic prescription eyeglasses. I'd not realized how much I'd taken for granted my no-frame, wire-rimmed spectacles. I put them on for the first time in five months shortly after I arrived home, and haven't seriously considered putting the ballistic frames on since being back. I'm told the Oakleys I wear Down Range are very stylish, but I think they look pretty stupid, to be perfectly honest.

My wire-rimmed glasses appear more professorial, I suspect, but given my 'day job', I don't see that as a negative.

Another, rather basic, but very noticeable nicety of being home concerns "personal hygiene." Not to put too fine a point on it, but not having to get dressed to go outside, crunch down the row of CHUs to the shower trailer, and around and behind it and around another trailer to get to the latrine, is positively decadent.

My Jesuit Community gave away my room after I deployed (not a surprise; that's why I needed to put all my stuff into storage), but they've put me up in a newly-renovated suite in the building which was the coach house of the original estate which later became the Retreat Center. Having a room all of my own, and a bathroom and shower of my own -- heaven, these days!

Being able to get together with other people who go to a lot of AA and Al-Anon meetings has been a delight, as well. Someone pointed out to me in the last few months that it seems as though the vast majority of my friends only have last initials, and not last names. She's right. I've seen many of them just in the last few days, and that's been a blessing.

As an aside, my friend CPT M has now redeployed, and I'm already feeling sadness at the distance between us, while at the same time feeling ecstatic that he's home safely after fifteen months Down Range. But just knowing that he was a SIPR phone call away was a great comfort while we were both over there.

I'd heard people describe the military -- and especially the Army -- as a 'band of brothers', but had no experiential knowledge of that truism. Until now. Until SFC McG, and CPT M, and PFC D, and SSG L, etc. Amazing.

Thank you, CPT M -- my brother -- for your courageous and honorable service.

Speaking of family, spending time with my parents has been wonderful. Not surprisingly, there have been times in the past when I'd not have been able to write that sentence (nor would they!), but that's no longer the case. Hooray!! I'm really glad, though, that they came to California rather than my having to go to Michigan. I'm no fan of urban snow in the midwest, and am grateful I didn't have to deal with that during my leave!

As things turned out, Mom and Dad and I left on flights that left from adjacent gates, within a few minutes' time. So we got to spend time hanging out at the airport together, and they saw me off at the gate, since my plane was scheduled to leave eight minutes before theirs. Sweet! Thanks, Mom and Dad!

It's also been nice to drive a non-tactical vehicle without having to be wearing a uniform while doing so. When on the road, I don't have to be concerned about IEDs or EFPs or RPGs or "reacting to contact." Nice! Someone who used 'my' car while I've been gone managed to scrape up a rear fender a bit, and the guys at the house seemed concerned that that might bother me, but since it's not really "mine" (it belongs to the Community; I just usually have exclusive use of it), I'm glad no one was hurt.

What a surprise and a delight to find the price of gas to be under $1.85 per gallon!! It was $4.75 when I left in June.

I've been able to celebrate Mass three times with some of my most favorite people, and that has been a blessing for me. It did feel a bit odd, being back, though. Other than when he was on leave, SFC McG has been with me just about every time I've celebrated Mass since he and I met up in July at Summer Camp. Praying the same prayers here that I pray when I'm Down Range gets me choked up, to be honest.

Because the Eucharistic Prayer for Masses of Reconciliation II is concerned with healing among nations, it's especially poignant in the context of living in a war zone. Praying that same prayer here, knowing my buddies (and others) Down Range are still in harm's way -- and some in mortal danger at this moment -- affects me deeply. Perhaps that's why I'm not dreading returning. (I'm just not looking forward to the process of getting there -- I have learned that like a fine wine, I do not travel well.) I'm grateful for the support and encouragement of all the folks from STA and the TMC (Thomas Merton Center, not Troop Medical Clinic)!

Anyway, when writing this I'd been up at 0300 after less than six hours of sleep, so that's enough gratitude for the moment.

8O give thanks to the LORD, call on his name,
make known his deeds among the peoples.

Sing to him, sing praises to him,
tell of all his wonderful works.

(NRSV: 1Chron 16:8-9)

Blessings and peace to one and all,

Fr. Tim, SJ

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1 comment:

CAB said...

Hi Fr Tim. thanks for the idea of the gratitude list idea and I appreciated they description of yours. Yes we are also thankful for the low gas prices. Looks like they my be going up due to cut back in production. I look forward to hearing about your ride back to Iraq. CAB

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