Defining Thankfulness

Sometimes our daily lives can feel like a game of dodge ball. Once the front door of our home closes behind us, we walk along, open and vulnerable, only half-alert to what may be lurking in our blind spot. Sometimes we run ahead, sometimes we stop quickly, sometimes we change course – and sometimes, when we least expect it – we get hit. It’s at that point, in the quiet moment of being hurt and alone, that we can protect our minds and our hearts by simply beginning to count the blessings of thanksgiving, one after another.

“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.” ―Ralph Waldo Emerson

This rite of Thanksgiving began approximately 390 years ago when the early colonists celebrated their survival though prayer. I can imagine the feeling of those Pilgrims who came together and silently and openly confessed thankfulness of body and soul, friendship and community, and the blessing of the harvest. It is written in documents and told though story that the Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Indians, together, shared an autumn harvest feast. It was a woman named Sarah Josepha Hale who inundated President Abraham Lincoln with letters requesting Thanksgiving Day to become a national holiday and, in 1863, the last Thursday of November was officially proclaimed.

“And when I give thanks for the seemingly microscopic, I make a place for God to grow within me.” ―Ann Voskamp

Thanksgiving Day has maintained its symbolic message of togetherness as we gather family who live far away and close by to our home and table. It is a day of preparation to welcome our loved ones, and a feast. As the moment should be given in gratitude, we take the time for silent reverence, with eyes closed, for reflection and prayer. It can be an emotional moment to identify our blessings, individually by name. It may begin with spouse and children, parents and grandparents, friends, and colleagues; then, expanding to church, house, job, land, and country. Gratitude is not a request for more, but the gift of personal blessing we all receive.

“We tend to forget that happiness doesn’t come as a result of getting something we don’t have, but rather of recognizing and appreciating what we do have.” ―Frederick Keonig

How do you show the act of thanksgiving every minute of every year? Most of us associate gratitude in offering words of “thank you” to someone who has helped or supported us, or provided an act or gift of kindness. These spoken words are a universal understanding of deep appreciation. Words alone are a strong means of kindness and thanksgiving, and it is hoped our efforts are transferred to others. Psychologists have observed in “positive psychology research” that we can all live for greater causes, which can, in turn, provide a feeling of internal happiness.

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” ―Melody Beattie

Beyond the blur of schedule and the quick passage of time, the day to day world is full of beauty and friendship, kindness and thanksgiving. It takes just a moment to stop, turn off the radio or television, take out the ear buds, and sit when the moon is full or the morning light has reached the front door. Take a true look at the gifts and joys, and God’s abundant goodness in your life. It takes just a moment of reflection to close your eyes and find the source of your words.

“Thanksgiving is nothing if not a glad and reverent lifting of the heart to God in honor and praise for His goodness.” ―Robert Casper Lintner