It’s Thanksgiving Day, the one day each year we set apart to be particularly mindful of the many blessings in our lives and to express our thanks to others who grace our lives with goodness. We gather with friends and family around tables overflowing with culinary bounty, exotic new flavors and old family favorites. We eat too much, often drink too much, overdose on football games and sometimes struggle to stay on our “good behavior” as the day wears on. We’re human and this is Thanksgiving in America.
But what does it mean to be truly thankful for all the bounty in our lives? I separate Thankfulness from Gratitude because I believe one is an action (the act of giving thanks) and the other is an attitude. We give thanks, or say “thank you” for a kindness, a gift, a gracious act or some sort of gesture made toward us. It is an act of response after we’ve received something. All too often, in our Mid-western culture, we say “thank you” automatically, without even thinking about the words. We’ve been taught to say “thank you” even for gifts we don’t appreciate – it is the polite thing to do.
So there it is, all too often giving thanks in today’s world is a societal gesture, the thing you say when someone gives you a gift, a compliment or shows you a courtesy; you return the favor with a word of thanks.
Gratitude, on the other hand is, or can be, a way of life – it is an attitude which, if adopted, can alter your perspective on everything else in life. It is the capacity to acknowledge blessing with each breath. It is the realization that the gifts that grace our lives are everywhere – the sun’s warmth, the moon’s brightness on a winter’s night, the affections of our pet who nuzzles into your lap just when you’re feeling lonely. Gratitude is a way of life; it is a lens through which the ordinary becomes extraordinary and the common becomes amazingly uncommon and astounding.
So, for today, I wish you a day of thankfulness. I wish you joy at every good thing that comes your way from the glowing smiles of friends to the glistening drumstick of the turkey. I also wish you a day in which you can find gratitude for the more common, and every-day things of life. I wish for you the realization that gratitude can permeate every part of life and make us appreciate even the perplexing things of life that confuse us and give us pause.
Gratitude enables us to trust that the Universe is out there blessing us, not just on this one, special day but every day, all the time. Gratitude permits us to reflect on the gifts that surprise us, the moments that inspire us and the realization that many blessings, sometimes disguised, touch our lives each day.