My mom took such joy in Thanksgiving. She especially enjoyed setting the table – laying out the china, flatware, goblets and cloth napkins that were used only on special occasions. And there was always a beautiful centerpiece.
I remember a political commentator using the phrase “set the table” to refer to political campaigns establishing their strategy as they get ready for the upcoming primaries. It’s a good phrase for all of us to think about. How do you prepare for special occasions, your workday, or just every day? How do you “set the table” of your life?
Gratitude is a great way to “set the table.” Psychology professor Robert Emmons of the University of California would concur. According to Emmons, gratitude is not just a happy emotion; it can improve one’s health. His research shows that individuals who kept a gratitude journal reported fewer physical symptoms of illness than those who did not.
This is not surprising to me. For years I have found gratitude to not only benefit my mental well-being, but also to heal illness. I had a friend who used to say, “When you are not feeling well, consider what you have to be grateful for.” While family and friends may naturally come first on many people’s list, my friend encouraged me to specifically express gratitude for God and His unconditional love. She knew that would make my gratitude even more effective in terms of health benefits, and she was right.
For instance, one day I was extremely ill at work – fatigued, nauseous and suffering from a headache. I remembered my friend’s advice, and began giving thanks to God for His love and care. Immediately I felt an overwhelming sense of peace. The pain subsided, and as I continued being thankful, the symptoms left. I felt energized. Healing may not always be this quick, but this time it was.
Even during the most difficult situations, the Pilgrims showed the importance of gratitude by expressing thanks to God for the blessings they received – a tradition we continue hundreds of years later. The Bible states, “Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift” (II Cor. 9: 15). To me, that gift is the immediate presence of divine Love’s protecting and healing power. Thankfulness for that is a beautiful centerpiece with which to “set the table of our lives.”