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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Interfaith thanksgiving - Appaiah, the unforgettable story of Gratitude

Mike Ghouse | www.TheGhouseDiary.com

Expression of gratitude is the ultimate balancing act in one's life.  Avoiding a simple thank-you creates discomfort,  awkwardness or imbalance within oneself and with others, while a simple thank you restores comfort, joy and balance. Hurting or 
ridiculing others does the same, and a simple sorry and repentance restores the balance within.

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.

I hope and pray that we will be kind to the refugees from Syria and other parts of the world. They have already endured humility and don't deserve more.   
Why should we care about others?

Our happiness hinges on being free from guilt, being free from prejudices and ill-will towards fellow beings. When we are free from these ills, we live in eternal bliss. 
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 calls this Vasudaiva Kutumbukum -- the whole world is one family. Judaism, Christianity and Islam strongly believe that we were all created from one couple and made into different races, tribes, nations and communities.  Likewise, every tradition has the common idea of goodness expressed in many different ways. 
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 lesser 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 Unforgettable story of Appaiah

I am pleased to share my personal story and few small things you can do to regain your sense of composure and balance.
Firstly, we need to be considerate to those who did not have a good childhood, youth, adulthood or retirement. Let's be kind to those who are struggling to take care of themselves, and fighting for a square meal for their families. The least we can do for them is to let them know that we care.
Secondly, we need to awaken our mentor, be it Zarathustra, Moses, Krishna, Buddha, Mahavira, Jesus, Muhammad, Tao, Confucius, Nanak, Bahaullah, Gandhi, MLK or whomever we hold dearly. We need to emulate them for at least for the day as an experiment, ready to embrace every one with a caring attitude.
Finally, let's make a list of people who have helped us shape our lives. We should not lose enthusiasm due to a large number of people we have to thank, we can do it by carrying a piece of paper, and writing down the names as they pop in the mind, even if we don't call everyone on the list, we have already said our thanks by thinking about the individual and writing his or her name down. When we express our gratitude to the person who has made a difference in our life, it brings a ton of relief. It's ours to keep.
The Unforgettable Story of Appaiah
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 father had assigned me the task of doling out the alms to the individuals when they pass by our door. I have seen lepers, people who cannot see, hear or talk, and 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 a torso with a head. He wrapped his body with a tube (those days car tires were inlaid with rubber tubes 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.
It was beyond me to understand Appaiah, I often wondered, what is there for him in life? The 14-year-old in me was full of ambition, and was looking forward to getting my education, finding the work, getting married, having a house and kids. I was a typical teenager loaded with testosterones and could not imagine life beyond that.
Why does he not commit suicide? What is there for him to look forward to? One day, I asked him. "Appaiah, you don't have relatives, can't do thing, don't have a place to live, and can't wear clothes ... why do you want to live?"
He turned around and took a deep breath and looked at me, he made an effort to move, but could not, and said, son, I look forward to every morning to see the blue sky or see the rain and smell the earth, I taste the good food people give me, I am thankful to God for giving me these eyes to see the beauty of his creation. I was watching him, he did not have the arms to point to his eyes, he then asked me, isn't there so much to be thankful for? Live for?
He was poetic, philosophical and pragmatic. He shattered my bias to smithereens, here I was thinking, what does this guy know?
I was rendered speechless. Here is a man with nothing to hope for, yet he is not complaining, instead, he is appreciating what he has got, which is nothing. That was quite an influencing experience in my life to treat others as I would want to be treated (Bible).
Just that morning, I heard my Dad's favorite verse from Quran: "Then which of the favors of your Lord will ye deny?" (55:16). Now, when hopelessness hits me, I go to the Scriptures. I have found solace in opening Bhagvad Gita, Bible, Guru Granth Saheb, Dale Carnegie's book, Kit√°b-i-Aqdas or simply read Sura Rahman, chapter 55 in Quran, to uplift my spirits. We have to be grateful for whatever we have and express it to the unknown giver, a true thanksgiving.
You can only feel the joy when you say a big or a small thank you to the ones who have helped you along the way, whether it is materially, spiritually or professionally.
A simple thank you will do a lot of good to us, and our relationships. Most people say thanks without fail, those who miss out on a few things; we have an opportunity to reflect on this Thanksgiving Day.
If you don't believe in God, that is fine, it is still a release when you say thanks to the invisible good that came to you un-asked.
Action Items to double your happiness.

1. Call the persons you have failed to express your gratitude.

2. Call and apologize those whom you have hurt.

3. Seek forgiveness and forgive others.

4. Be good and kind to those who are unfortunate.

Happy thanksgiving ya'll.

Dr. Mike Ghouse is a community consultant, social scientist, thinker, writer, news maker, and a speaker on PluralismInterfaithIslampoliticshuman rightsIndiaIsrael-Palestine and foreign policy. He is committed to building cohesive societies and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day. More about him in 63 links at www.MikeGhouse.net and bulk of his writings are at TheGhousediary.com  

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