Southwest Airlines always has ideas about ways they can help me. Usually these ideas land in my email with amiably corny, forgettable tag lines: “We Miss You!” “Boo! 31 Days to Save!” “Hot Deals, Cool Season!” The other day, though, Southwest’s message reached a little higher, and I couldn’t ignore it.
“Giving thanks, all month long,” the email began, and instead of skipping past it, I paused. “Do they mean it?” I wondered. “Do they realize what they’re saying?”
Giving thanks all month long. It sounds like a very good idea – even better than buying a plane ticket. It is an idea full of warm, buttery drinks, and cuddly puppies, and cozy toes. Implied in the manifesto, however, is a challenge. Can I open my heart to real gratitude all month long? Can I follow through on that commitment here, with you? Because gratitude isn’t always found only on the upside. In my experience, it often comes after the fact, when life has darkened, and then brightened and I am left all the more exposed, knowing what I have is yet very, very good.
So, I thought giving thanks, all month long, sounded like not a good idea at all, but a powerful, promising one. A scary idea. In fact, irresistible.
And because just a few moments of mild asthma last week was enough to remind me there is no greater thoughtlessness than the lazy luxury of oxygen eddying over and through those pink sponges hidden behind my sternum, I realized that air itself, filling and flowing, sinking and rising, into and out of my lungs, was where I had to start.
I should feel grateful too, for forgetfulness that made me think nothing special was happening as inhalation gave way to exhalation and then began again without a whisper of distress. You see? That is the shadow of gratitude. It isn’t just that we should choose to count our blessings, but that they are so many we must forget their number, in order to fool ourselves into wanting anything else, at all.