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Thanksgiving: An Interfaith Celebration

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The biggest part of Thanksgiving is sharing and caring. It is a day to express friendship and kindness to those who are struggling with the difficulties of life. It ought to bring out the best in us for others.

Why should we do that?

The Native Americans believe that the world is one large family, an interconnected and interdependent web of life, where each one of us is a strand. What affects one, affects the other. It behooves us to care for each other for the web to remain intact. Indeed, Hinduism titles this beautifully: Vasudaiva Kutumbukum -- the whole world is one family.

Jesus said, do unto others as you would want others to do for you. He reached out to the ones who were abandoned by the society. He embraced the whole humanity with his heart and soul. The Jewish tradition highlights Ve'ahavta la'ger -- you must love the stranger for that guaranteed happiness. Prophet Muhammad said the least you can give to others is hope and a smile. The Sikh faith is indeed founded on the principle of caring for the humanity; the Jains and Baha'is believe our joy comes from taking care of others as the Wiccan believe we have to take care of what we see -- mother earth and everything she nurtures. The Atheist morality is based on the logic of co-existence and they believe in thanking the unknown energy or the system that keeps us all going.

Life Is A Self-Balancing Act

Those who achieve balance in life are the happiest people. Our happiness is directly dependent on fulfillment of our desires; lesser fulfillment yields greater discontentment. So, the enlightened Buddha says, fewer desires bring less sorrow!

It's just not you. Ask Bill Gates, whom God has blessed, he would say not enough! Ask the Homeless and the answer is still the same: not enough. Who has enough then?

Walk the Middle path, said Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), just have enough desires that you can fulfill them, happiness stays with you. My mother used to say "don't stretch your feet beyond your sheet," meaning, stay within your means. Every faith and every family is enriched with such an advice.

For every good we receive, we have to offer our gratitude to the giver, absence of a simple thank you creates an imbalance in the relationship and the spiritual energy. A simple thank you will tie the loose ends and restores the balance.

For every hurt we hurl on others, an equal amount of energy is depleted from us, and until we say sorry and repent genuinely, the energy balance remains low and the transaction remains incomplete.

For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction; and as a spiritualist I believe that for every wrong we do, an equal amount of energy is drained down from us and for every good we do, energy is recouped.

Life is a continual act of balancing between pain and pleasure, and to lead a normal life we have to maintain that equilibrium. We are constantly receiving and giving energy, intake and output must be equal to have a healthy mindset, or else we are thrown off balance.

Thanksgiving is a day to pull ourselves together and tie the loose ends of life. Through the year we receive a lot of good from others in the form of words and actions, and many a times the transaction remains incomplete. A mere thank you brings genuine relief and balance to the spirit.

The Story Of Incredible Gratitude

Let me share a story from my teen years. It was a Sunday ritual for me to sit and take care of the poor. A line of the needy people would pass in front of my house, and, being the oldest in the family, my Dad had assigned me the task of doling out the cash and food items to the individuals as they pass our door. I have seen lepers, people who cannot see, hear or talk, and certainly people with missing body parts.

I was fascinated by one such person. He did not have arms and limbs from the base of the body, and he was just the torso and the head. He wrapped his body with a rubber tube (those days car tires were inlaid with an air tight rubber tube to hold the air) of a car tire, and would slide inch by inch on his back from door to door. His shoulder and rear part would move in tandem similar to a snake. He always made me think about life and hope. I was about 14 years old then and was hesitant to speak with him.

One day, I asked him what made him want to live. He did not have relatives, could not do anything, could not have a family, could not have a place to live, and could not wear clothes. What made him want to live?

He took a deep breath and looked at me and said, "Son, I look forward to every morning to see the blue sky or see the rain and smell the earth, I smell and taste the good food people give me, I am thankful to God for giving me these eyes to see the beauty of his creation." He was quite poetic.

Appaiah turned around and asked me instead, "Isn't there so much to thank the Lord?" I was rendered speechless. Here is a man with nothing to hope for, yet he is not complaining, that is gratitude. Just that morning, I heard my Dad's favorite verse from the Quran (55:16): "Then which of the favors of your Lord will ye deny? To this day, if I am down, I to go to the scriptures, I have found solace in opening Bhagvad Gita, Bible, Dale Carnegie's book, the book of Mormon or Kitáb-i-Aqdas or simply read Sura Rahman, chapter 55 in the Quran, to uplift my spirits. We have to be grateful for whatever we have and express it to the unknown giver, a true thanksgiving.

Happy Thanksgiving

Please carry a small piece of paper with you anywhere you go, and whenever you find a quiet moment, make a list of all the people you want to thank, you will find a sense of relief in it. Even if you don't call everyone on the list, you have already said your thanks by thinking about the individual. The tension of the action (good done to you) is released with your reaction of thinking about them or writing their name down and possibly calling them.

Ponder over all the good things people have done to you, the good words they have said to you. Even if you don't like some of them now, separate the good they have done and say thanks for it. Rein in your ego and feel the victory within you.

I thank every soul for contributing to my positive energy.

When you step out of your home today and run into someone who is down, be kind to him or her. Prophet Muhammad was once asked if you don't have anything to give in charity, what can you give? He said a genuine smile is the most beautiful thing you can give. See the difference you make in their life -- and your own. That is the least amount of charity you can do.

I further express my gratitude to our men and women who are doing their duty to protect our freedom.

Happy Thanksgiving
God Bless America

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