Gratitude: A Thanksgiving reflection

The pilgrims invited their Indigenous friends for that first Thanksgiving feast because they were grateful for the help growing enough of a fall harvest that they could stay alive in the upcoming harsh cold winter. Whether this story is based on facts or not, we have celebrated this American holiday ever since.

But this year, everything is different. We have to make a new plan with people only from our own households. Will we really miss Uncle Roger dozing off and snoring? Will we miss arguing over how many piercings Mary’s new ‘friend’ had, or how long they stayed? Do we really need a huge meal? Do we need to argue about politics this year? Can we Zoom or FaceTime on the phone with our families who are not with us?

As we reflect on what we are missing, let’s also remember how fortunate we are to be alive, see the beautiful earth and feel the air. Let’s remember that the world will continue to spin rapidly around every 24 hours and take a new wobbly trip around the sun every year, marked by the solstices and equinoxes. Let’s allow that understanding to put our daily struggles in better perspective.

We all have the ability to give a precious gift to those around us: undivided attention. Before dinner, there are hours and days to listen to the people in our lives. Not listening while we scroll through Instagram, but listening like we have no phone. Kindness, joy and compassion are the qualities we should strive to develop in ourselves and spread in our tiny corner of the world.

Gratitude should be the salient feeling and action this time of year.  Gratitude is spontaneous, but also the intentional effort to count our blessings. It starts inside, in our hearts and minds, in our inner awareness, transforming us with the power of compassion and appreciation. It extends outward with an inner positive attitude that can be highly contagious, as well as intentional actions that reflect those inner feelings. “Can I help you with that?” We can start with our families, but extend to friends, colleagues, neighbors and anyone we have contact with.

Meal time is a wonderful opportunity to reflect on gratitude. First, you have food. Second, realize that someone grew it, picked it, gathered it, caught it or raised it, then someone else transported it to where you could purchase it — a store, your local farmer’s market, a small rolling stand in the town square. Each bite can be eaten with a sense of gratitude that you can nourish your body to grow stronger and healthier. We can remember to take time to enjoy each bite, to savor the flavors and consistency, appreciate what we are eating a little more. Fifty percent of the world has no stove and needs to find something to burn to cook food. If you are reading this, you probably have a stove, and can remember to be grateful the next time it cooks your meal.

In the current chaotic pandemic environment, we can just be glad we are breathing on our own, because many are not. There are empty chairs at many tables around the world, and others struggling to understand. We can appreciate the precious gift of life we have. Breathing the air, drinking fresh water and having some food is enough cause for celebration. 

Full tables of everyone can wait for another year. Just being here is enough. A new day will arrive each morning as the world continues to spin.