I’m finishing up some work today and Ripley the dog came to visit my office at St. Joe’s. She nuzzled up and slobbered on my computer (she just drank water) and then gave me a nice sloppy kiss as well. Then she took up residence and fell sound asleep on my office floor.

Ripley is an old dog. Her brother, Quigley, died this past year and she’s been a bit lonely. Fr. Pat, our other priest recently moved to his own new quarters and Ripley (or Maddie as Fr. Pat calls her) was close with him–even though she is Fr. Jack’s dog.

I haven’t been home for Thanksgiving in some time and I too, can feel lonely around the holidays. This will be my first Christmas that I won’t return home to NYC. We will make an early trip in to see both sides of the family instead. Time and money sometimes don’t allow us to do what we’d prefer.

Like Ripley, my parents are also old. Now in their 80s, I don’t get to see them as much as I used to and honestly, I’m awful about the phone and they don’t own a computer–so Skype or chats are not available. The disconnection is rather palpable for me lately and I treasure the time I spend with them.

But Marion (my wife) and I have made this our own holiday now. We find time for friends or family. We curl up on Friday after wherever we may have found ourselves and we try find ways to celebrate gratitude–even in lean years. One trip to Nicaragua was enough to realize that we indeed are not close to being poor.

This year, Ann Marie Eckert (from the Center for Ministry Development!) and her family invited us to their home. We’re excited to be spending time with them as Ann Marie and I have gotten to know each other better since the move to Buffalo and she was one of the many reasons that the transition was so easy for us. Her family is a stalwart of our parish and it will be great to spend some time with them.

So while I can’t wait to see my own extended family in early December, I’m grateful this year to be with a good friend’s family and our little family as well. Haze the dog just might get a little turkey for the holiday and a nice long belly rub.

But for now, Ripley snores on my floor reminding me that the best things in life usually surround what brings us comfort. So for the record, I’ve got a great life, a great wife, a crazy dog and sometimes a second dog comes around to love me. I love what I do for work and the people I do it with. We’ve grown in many ways this semester alone and have to figure out how else we plan to bring Christ to a new and often distant group of students on campus. I’ve lost weight and love exercising with my trainer, Ben, who has developed quite a good community during our morning workouts. We push each other and find ways to interact and become the best we can be.

Mostly, I’m thankful that God gives me opportunities for gratitude and that I’m awakened each day by a feeling of thankfulness. That’s exciting and reminds me that the world is charged with God’s grandeur.

Things aren’t perfect–and they never will be until God’s love is embraced by all so that we might in turn BE GRATITUDE for all those who need us. God’s love is all that we need and loving us is all that God needs.

Today may we become like Ripley the Dog, who rests easy on the floor, grateful for just one more day to be in anyone’s presence and to love them.

It’s enough for her. It’s enough for God. And it should be more than enough for us.

Happy Thanksgiving.