The Gift of Gratitude

I love growing giant pumpkins. The only problem is, I stink at it.

This year at The Grove, we had a bumper crop of organic lemons and our avocados did pretty well too.

But on the small patch of soil in our backyard in San Clemente that's designated as our pumpkin patch, I couldn't grow one stinkin' pumpkin this past summer. I did get a nice small crop of zucchinis, but my real passion is pumpkins.

When my kids were growing up, I made it my mission to grow a Charlie Brown giant pumpkin. Perhaps you've seen recording breaking giant pumpkins that weigh in at 2,625 pounds? My personal world record came in at a measly 30 pounds and that was years ago.

Now, I could make all kinds of excuses. We live along the coast in San Clemente, where the summers are relatively mild. We get cloudy "June Gloom" or "July Grey", where the coastal inversion layer keeps things cloudy and cool.

This is a problem.

Pumpkins love two things: heat and water.

I can provide plenty of water, but not the heat. As a farmer, I know I can't control the weather. I could choose to plant my pumpkins at our Grove property, but that's an hour away and one of my favorite things to do when I take a break from writing is to go outside and water my plants. Especially in the summer when I get to water my pumpkins.

This year was going to be my year. In late May, I had about 15 starter plants that I'd nurtured from seeds. By mid-June, I had several baby pumpkins appear. I was already wondering how I was going to get my future 2,626 pound world record pumpkin from the backyard to my front door for the whole neighborhood to see and be in awe of my giant pumpkin cultivation skills.

But dang it, once those baby pumpkins grew to the size of a cantaloupe, a mottled pale skin disease akin to the Black Plague of Death, took over those innocent cucurbitaceae.

One pumpkin after another. Death upon death. Since I grew up in a mortician's family, you'd think I'd get used to it. But with every new growing pumpkin, my hopes were dashed with heartbreaking disappointment.

I scoured the Internet and read that the best solution to protect my precious pumpkins was to get an air-sprayer and apply a rich coat of milk. And so I sprayed and sprayed, leaving my eighteen year old no milk for his morning cereal. 

From June until the end of September, it was one casualty after another.

Simply too much pumpkin pathos for me to endure.

Okay, I can handle the lose of a few gourds, but if you really want to peer in my heart, what growing pumpkins is really all about is me spending time with my granddaughter, Sophie.

I grew pumpkins with my children because it was fun and I wanted to teach them the important art and practice of cultivation. Now that I'm a grandpa, oh my oh my, my joy is increased every day my two and a half year old Sophie would wander in the garden with me to water the pumpkins. She even grew quite proficient at pronouncing zucchini.

Every day Sophie came over, I'd jump from my desk, "Sophie! Want to water the pumpkins with Papa?!!"

Sophie never turned me down. I had so hoped to grow her at least one giant pumpkin.


So I stink at growing giant pumpkins. Yes, "Humiliation before humility" is my life verse. Even though this year, I am 0-18 in the pumpkin patch, there is one granular grain of hope in all of my failed attempts at Charlie Brown Great Pumpkin Greatness.

And that would be the gift of gratitude.

Even in failure, I have much to be grateful for. 

Failure can be fatal... if we let it... or failure can force us to scramble and scour for what is truly good, beautiful, true and right about our lives.

What I love about the gift of gratitude is that it causes me to stop and consider not what I don't have (i.e. giant pumpkins), but what I do have...

  • A small patch of ground to cultivate.
  • A beautiful granddaughter to laugh with, teach, love and cherish.
  • Blue sky, water, dear family and beautiful friendships.
  • Zucchini that are strong, disease-resilient, not subject to the Black Plague.

The gift of gratitude, the practice of giving thanks daily, is one of the most important spiritual practices you can do.

Cultivating gratitude is good for your heart because it is the best defense from the toxicity of gossip, criticism, entitlement, pride, self-hatred, shame, guilt, addiction -- you name it -- and all the other Black Plague parasites that threaten our soul.

The gift of gratitude is like a high-yielding stock that pays great dividends. It's always reinvested in more thanksgiving and more appreciation. When I am grateful, my outlook on life is so much lighter and freer than the heavy load of expectations, fears and worries.

Gratitude always leads to a greater sense of abundance. 

I heard it once said, "When you're generous, there's always enough. When you're not generous, there's never enough."

Generosity is the fruit of gratitude. When you and I see how much we really have, we realize how much we have to give.

My life goal is to make this world a more beautiful place. 

When I practice the gift of gratitude, I begin to see that I have everything I need to start doing just that. 

Even if I strike out in my pumpkin patch.

Wishing you a beautiful and bountiful Thanksgiving.


I love your comments. What are you most grateful for? How do you practice the gift of gratitude?