Definition (courtesy of Google): The quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.
As is our tradition, Americans will express gratitude for our family and friends, our homes, our jobs and the food on table as we celebrate Thanksgiving this week. I suggest we add a new topic to the holiday’s gratitude list: our innate curiosity, which helps us make sense of our lives in this rapidly changing world.
That curiosity emerges at unexpected times, such as during life’s catastrophes that – when viewed in hindsight – often lead to our life’s next adventure. I learned this first-hand when I was laid-off from my job in 2005. It seemed like the end of the world and I missed my colleagues, the routine and sense of mission that the work provided (as well as the paycheck). Four months later, I found myself in the unexpected role of caregiver for my elderly mother. While I am grateful for the time I was able to spend with her during her final two years, I also am thankful for the wealth of learning that emerged during that time period on topics such as caregiving, Alzheimer’s and being self-employed. My innate curiosity about caregiving and Alzheimer’s led to writing a regular blog about Alzheimer’s for HealthCentral.com, which led to several other fascinating projects. Based on these opportunities, I was willing to take the challenge and create this I Start Wondering… website when my friend, Kaye, suggested it.
Our innate curiosity also serves us well as we head into a holiday season that has many skeptical about the intention of strangers who have a different skin color, a different accent, a different birthplace or a different religious affiliation. When contemplating my personal stance on these issues, I instinctively find myself embracing the nuggets of truth that I discovered in earlier mental wanderings. For instance, I was surprised to learn while investigating my family history a few years ago (thanks to Ancestry.com) that my paternal grandmother immigrated to the United States in the early 1900s. In doing additional reading, I realized that my grandmother’s immigration might not have been possible if her family had waited a couple of decades; instead, they could have been victims caught up in the Holocaust. This discovery now informs my viewpoint on the plight of refugees seeking haven from war or dire poverty.
My musings also have led me to believe that most individuals – no matter what their nationality or religion — want peace, security, tolerance and advancement, and my wide-ranging explorations reinforce this stance. I recently read Geraldine Brooks’ People of the Book. Her historical novel focuses on the history of a sacred, ancient Jewish text and incorporates true events when Muslims saved this religious text from bombing and looting. Interestingly, several of the book’s characters don’t concern themselves with differences in religious dogma; instead, their actions are guided by faith. I also rely on learning from multiple museum visits where exhibits highlighted the advancements created by Muslims that we take for granted today, such as surgery, hospitals, algebra, and the musical scale.
We all live in a time of enormous societal upheaval and change. I’d suggest that it’s our commitment to lifelong learning will help us thrive. My curiosity has helped me to think critically and see beyond the messages that constantly bombard me on the Internet and from media sources, especially the cacophony created by politicians and pundits. By following our innate spark and exploring a wide range of new ideas, we might find that we have more in common with each other – and more to learn from each other. That’s a lesson for which I’m eternally grateful –and I hope you are as well!
Sterns, O. (2010). Muslim Inventions that Shaped the Modern World. CNN.com.