Finding contentment this holiday season

By Terry Pettee

This article was originally published on November 22, 2017.

I came across a noteworthy quote recently.  Unfortunately, I was not in a position to write it down.  So, here is my best recollection.


Being thankful does not bring happiness.  But being happy brings thankfulness.

I have been wrestling with the message of that quote for several days.  The best way I can describe my wrestling match is by offering you what may be an unorthodox comparison.  It is like tasting a homemade soup, knowing it needs something more, but not sure just what that something more is.

It usually helps me to think these things through a snippet at a time.

Thinking thankful thoughts is more likely to bring about happiness than dwelling on depressing thoughts.  I can buy that.  But, I am not so sure thankful thoughts will lead to happiness.  Let me give you an example.

I was driving home alone north on I-94 from Metro Airport in an icy snow storm when my med-size pickup truck spun out of control.  I managed to stop my truck within two feet of plunging down into a deep ravine.  I was thankful my truck stopped but I was not happy about my near-death experience.

Okay, I exaggerate, I probably would have survived the plunge.  So, call it poetic license, and let’s move on.  The point is, being thankful I missed the plunge did not bring me happiness.  On the contrary, it nearly brought on cardiac arrest.

Another example.

Both my parents came from big families.  My four grandparents and my many aunts and uncles were all people of modest means, living in modest sized homes.  Holidays, when all the aunts, uncles and cousins gathered at one or the other grand parents’ home represented a challenge at mealtime.

I remember one Christmas Eve when several us of cousins gathered in the bathroom to eat.  I was quick enough to secure seating on the toilet, lid down of course.  The toilet was preferable to the narrow ledge of the tub.  Those of you who remember cast iron bathtubs with clawed feet can appreciate how little comfort that tub ledge offered.

I was happy to be celebrating Christmas Eve with my sizable family, but not particularly thankful for the dining accommodations.  It was not a near death experience, however you can imagine the limited prospects of completing a meal in a house temporarily occupied by nearly three dozen eating and imbibing men, women and children.  Worse yet, there was the return to those accommodations following – well, you get the idea.

I have pondered the correlation between thankfulness and happiness as it is proposed in the quote that got me thinking along these lines.  I think I have finally found the ingredient that completes the soup of the adage into something a bit more delectable to my taste.

That needed additional ingredient that perfectly blends thankfulness and happiness together is contentment.  You see, thankfulness and happiness are often conditionally based on circumstances.  Contentment is rising above circumstances.

Let me add that ingredient and you tell me if the flavor better suits your taste too.

            Being thankful does not bring happiness.  But being happy brings thankfulness when seasoned with the just the right amount of contentment.

I call it homemade Peace Soup.

Depending upon when you read this, as we move into or nicely into the Holiday Season, may I recommend you add a new item to your Holiday Season menu.

Have a festive bowl of Peace Soup.

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Terry Pettee is a graduate of Eastern Michigan University where his undergraduate study prepared him for a career in secondary education. Prior to attending EMU, he was Editor-In-Chief of the Erie Square Gazette while a student at the St. Clair County Community College. Between his community college and university years he was Marysville Editor of the St. Clair County Independent Press where he was a newspaper reporter and columnist. After a brief teaching stint his life’s journey led him into human resource and industrial relations management; a career spanning four decades. Now retired, Terry writes both Christian value based fiction and non-fiction for his own amusement, which is babble-speak for saying he has only a single published book to his credit.

Disclaimer: Blue Water Healthy Living is an online magazine located in Port Huron, Michigan. Our purpose is to promote healthy living by showcasing the Blue Water Area, its people, issues and surroundings. This online magazine is devoted to providing healthy living related stories, local happenings, and commentary. Often inspiring and uplifting, our stories come from our heart and soul to promote the enjoyment of a more fulfilling Blue Water Area lifestyle. The material on this web site is provided for informational and amusement purposes only and is not to be confused with any medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. The views and opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the opinions and values of Blue Water Healthy Living.

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