“Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.”― A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh
While children devoured the last of their Halloween candy, parents rationed and hid the mounds of treats, and frustrated teachers pulled their hair out with kids overdosed on sugar in their classrooms in the U.S., we were totally immersed in the cultural tradition of Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) on Ometepe Island.
For me, a little appreciation for family traditions goes a long way in Nicaragua. I am filled with gratitude to be a part of the custom of visiting the graves of loved ones, instead of experiencing a highly commercialized, sugar-overloaded, and hangover holiday of which I can find no altruistic reason to partake.
Practicing Gratitude on Dia de los Muertos
Gratitude strengthens relationships. Marina and her family have been our neighbors for over 10 years on Ometepe Island. At times, our relationship has been confusing and mysterious simply because our customs, language, and traditions are so different. Yet, we all count our blessings that we can share our lives together.
Marina sits on the grave of her husband, Don Jose, who died last October. She recalled sweet remembrances of their lives together raising five children. I believe that gratitude is about shifting one’s perceptions. No one has a perfect life. Marina and Don Jose struggled through poverty and sacrificed to provide for and to raise five strong, healthy, and good children. For this, I know she is very grateful.
We shared the benefits of gratitude today by appreciating what we have… as opposed to a consumer-driven emphasis on what we want.
One of the most powerful ways to raise grateful children is likely to be grateful adults. Raising grateful children means raising our own gratitude levels as well. Luvy, Marina’s daughter, is a perfect example of a grateful daughter.
We now have four friends buried in our local cemetery, two foreigners and two local Ometepinos. We visited their graves and gave thanks for their friendships.
At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us. Albert Schweitzer
The cemetery was a hub of flowers, rakes, shovels, and families visiting their loved ones.
The deepest craving of human nature is the need to be appreciated.
– WIlliam James
Families decorated the graves and tombs. Children played while the tinkling bell of the ice-cream vendor floated softly through the cemetery.
Let us be grateful to people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom. – Marcel Proust
He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has. – Epictetus
Practicing gratitude opens the heart…even for a very small heart like Piglet’s.
Gratitude is an emotion of connectedness, which reminds us we are part of a larger universe with all living things.
As we left the cemetery on Dia de Los Muertos, our gratitude led us to feelings of love, appreciation, generosity, and compassion, which further opened our hearts to this lovely day. Now, time to eat pizza with our extended family in Nicaragua.
Dia de los Muertos…the day that helps us rewire our brains to fire in more positive and compassionate ways.