Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Four Days of Thanksgiving – Day 3 – My Wonderful Grandma Johnson

I'm baaaa-aaack. Yes, with my annoying Four Days of Thanksgiving song. Brace yourselves, now...

"On the Third Day of Thanksgiving, my blog friend gave to me
a piece of her family history."

My Grandma Johnson really "got it" about gratitude. She knew how to find beauty in the simplest things. Maybe this is because she worked so hard as a young girl and woman. Let me share a few words from her journal:

"When I was 14, my hours were from 5:00 in the morning until 11:00 at night working for a widow with six boys and two young men boarding there who were working in my employer's General Merchandise Store. The reason for my early morning hours was that I had to make breakfast for one of those young clerks so he could go to the store and open up for the sheep men who came early to get their supplies. In the spring of the year there were many shearing camps in Soda Springs, and they had a great amount of trade from these shearing corrals. Besides the housework and cooking, I had all the washing and ironing to do for the six boys. I usually did my ironing after dinner at night and would iron until 11:00. I was paid for this work $2.00 per week, but my father took all my wages out in flour. "

This was just one of the jobs my grandmother did as a young girl. When she was finished with this particular one, she was so run down and worn out that her father had to come and get her. Her mother put her to bed and doctored her back to health.

It's a wonder they were able to survive, really. Listen to her description of their water in the fall:

"In the fall of the year, when the water was turned off, there would be some standing water in the holes in the canal. It was stagnant and full of bugs and wigglers. My mother would send me with a pail and a tin cup and a dishtowel cloth. I would tie the dish towel over the bucket and strain the wigglers out of the water. Of course, this water was then boiled, but I often wonder how we kept as healthy and free from typhoid fever. Our Heavenly Father was surely blessing those few pioneers."

Grandma Johnson always felt blessed, no matter what the conditions were. You felt it in her presence. Everything around her was a source of appreciation, and I hope I can be more like her.

A talk I gave a couple of Thanksgivings ago was largely inspired by my grandmother. Here is an excerpt:

"How often do we stop and appreciate not just colors of the sunrise but the fact that the sun rises at all? When we raise our hands to flick away an annoying insect, are we even aware of the complex neurological ballet taking place in our bodies? Does it ever occur to us to be thankful for the ability to make those intricate connections? Probably not, until something comes along to deprive us of that blessing. Christopher Reeve, once a great athlete, certainly came to appreciate the freedom of movement most of us take for granted. Shortly before his death, I watched an interview where he was speaking with heartfelt gratitude and obvious joy of a recently acquired ability, after eight years of intensive work, to move...ever so slightly...his finger. He humbled me that day.

"Acknowledging and appreciating the things we have makes sense. It also makes sense to spend some time thinking about the things we don't have. I guess this would be the 'cup-half-full' approach to gratitude. For example, rather than be sorry for ourselves because we have diabetes, we can give thanks that we don't have leukemia as well. When struggling with financial problems, we can appreciate the fact that we are not struggling with joblessness. If joblessness does become an issue...[as it certainly could in this economy]...we can be grateful that we do not, at least, have a condition or disability which precludes our ability to work at all. Anyway, you get the idea. This way of viewing problems, which I like to call the 'Survivor of the Great Depression' strategy, was used by my indomitable Grandma Johnson, an eternal optimist and one of the most grateful people I've ever met. By the way, my personal variation on Grandma's strategy is this: 'If you can't be grateful for what you have, be grateful for what you have left!'"

Grandma Johnson was one smart cookie, and I am thankful to be her granddaughter.

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