When Thanksgiving time comes around I tend to become very literal minded. I look at the word “Thanksgiving” and I automatically say, “Hmm, this must mean giving thanks!” (Afterall, my user name is CJWORDPLAY – what else would you expect but that I would do some wordplay).
Considering the actual meaning of the word “Thanksgiving” is really more than play. For me, “Giving Thanks” is the most enduring tradition that I have associated with my 65+ years of Thanksgiving Day celebrations. The one thing I include, no matter who I celebrate with, no matter what the menu, no matter what the activity, is a generous helping of giving thanks.
There is a history to this tradition. Growing up, holidays brought a mix of some good things (the yummy food my grandma prepared) and some crummy things, too. You see, the one constant in my family was conflict. In fact, my mom's and dad's parents refused to be together under the same roof. And since my parents were both only children there were no aunts, uncles, or cousins either, except those quite a few steps “removed”. My mom and dad and sister and I would go to the house of one of my grandparents. No one got along with anyone for long and tension was served with every mouthful.
When people don't like being with each other there isn't room for much else. It's very hard to notice the wonderful blessings that happen each day when in order to make it through the day you need to numb yourself out from the strife of your existence. When you ignore things – the good goes away - along with the bad - and you can no longer think of anything to be thankful for. Isn't that sad?
That was how I grew up and I didn't have a lot of choices then. But now I can celebrate Thanksgiving Day by finding ways to embrace the joys in my life. Here are a few of my favorites:
I send Thanksgiving Day cards. They usually are so unexpected. I like to take time to think about the person and hand write a note of thanks to them. It feels good sending these surprises to the people who have made a difference in my life. I call them “duty-free” cards because they are done from my heart and not from duty.
I like to remember the blessings of life – the more ordinary the better. Today, while taking a shower, I recalled what it is like living in a place where there are no facilities to get clean. And suddenly the warm cascade became an incredible experience of benevolence. Then I remembered the people who have no such privilege – like those suffering in the aftermath of typhoon Haiyan – and in areas of draught around the world. Water is such a blessing. Even though I live in Oregon, you will no longer hear me complain when it rains!
After reading the early part of my story you may be wondering how I learned to have a heart of gratitude. I'm still in awe of the miraculous nature of it myself. But one part is certain. At the age of 25 I was given a very special Thanksgiving Gift – my sweet daughter, Stephanie. She was born on November 22nd and even as a child she thought is was terrific that people all across the country celebrated her birthday!
Learning to be grateful and finding ways to give thanks has changed my life.
"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."
I am happy to wish you joy-filled moments of giving thanks and may every meal be a feast.