Having little yet rejoicing a lot: a gift

I spent all my life as part of the 99%, wishing I were part of the 1%.

I drove a Ford Fairlane, my friend drove an MG sports car. I struggled for dates, he dated cheerleaders. And why, I wondered later in life, did all those business students make so much more than we liberal arts majors?

My friends in banking and finance eventually bought big colonials in the backcountry while I hunkered down in a cozy Cape Cod with four daughters, two closets and one bathroom. What was there to be thankful for?


Envy is a terribly corrosive emotion that can consume you and get in the way of gratitude. We live in a society that is competitive and acquisitive and as a result, thanksgiving doesn’t come easily, even for people who have good lives as part of the 99%.


For many others, it will be hard to be thankful this holiday season. Some of my friends have been out of work for more than two years, and it doesn’t look like they’ll be getting jobs anytime soon because they are — in words that human resources directors avoid on the advice of counsel — “too old.”

Another friend, whose father just died, had to put her mother in a nursing home and deal with family crises all by herself because her husband left her, and that’s only the beginning of her problems. Should I mention the young woman recently diagnosed with breast cancer, or the family that lost their house and may have to take their daughter out of college?

Sometimes you wonder whether God has a sense of fairness when he passes out the suffering. There’s no 99% and no 1% when it comes to pain — 100% of us suffer.

Thanksgiving is always a challenge for me because I’m not grateful by nature, and it takes an enormous effort to count my blessings, which means I usually come up short because I look at the glass as half full and have to struggle to control my jealousy of the fortunate few who are doing much better — and don’t deserve to be, according to my thinking.

But the people I truly envy don’t shop at Saks or dine at The Four Seasons. The ones I truly envy have a little and yet rejoice as if they had a lot.

Few things are more confounding than people who have the attitude of gratitude, confounding because they usually have less than the rest of us, confounding because they’re often afflicted with illness, confounding because their lives aren’t what you’d call privileged.

Gratitude is more than a way of looking at life. It’s a gift and you’re given the gift by asking for it. So when you’re sitting around the Thanksgiving table about to say grace, perhaps the best prayer is to ask for the insight to appreciate the blessings you’ve received.

Help us to recognize the gifts we’ve been given — and be grateful for them. Then, we’ll be part of an exclusive 1% that understands the attitude of gratitude and the joy it brings.



Joe Pisani can be reached at [email protected]

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