This week’s Thanksgiving is a wholly American holiday that many of us look forward to, sometimes more than any other seasonal celebration. It brings us together to break bread with family and friends, gorge ourselves on home-cooked meals, share stories, and stop to reflect on what we are grateful for.
The times are unique right now and finding that gratitude may be very difficult. Instead of moving toward a light at the end of the many tunnels, it feels as if we are moving further away. And it is because of that we find ourselves celebrating one of the most communal of holidays in a very different way. It’s enough to give us pause, even make us wonder what there is to be thankful for in the midst of this rather intense year.
Understandable, really. And yet…
If you take just a moment to step back and look around with an open mind and willing heart, you will discover there are things to be grateful for all over the place.
Small gestures of great meaning
The sun rises, the birds chirp, and the leaves go from green to gold. In that are little moments of wonder and possibility, beauty and delight, even if it is fleeting. And those bits of time, those instances of brilliance build upon themselves to create a sense of joy when we least expect it, a smile of “thanks” for another day, a beautiful song, the dusky smell of the changing season that fills us with memory.
Finding our way to gratitude has changed. Grand gestures or big moments are being replaced with simple, subtle joys that we are discovering are more life-changing than anything some of us have ever known.
Someone smiles at us with their eyes above their mask, making the effort to show they are saying a passing, “Hello,” and our hearts warm. We are grateful for being noticed, shown care.
Walking outside for a breath of fresh air after being stuck inside on an interminable Zoom conference brings us peace and calm. We close our eyes and thank the sun for warming our face or the night breeze for cooling our skin.
The line at the grocery store is far longer than we thought it would be to grab those last minute ingredients to make our trimmed down Thanksgiving celebration. Just when we think we’ll lose our minds, we realize we have our trusty phone, our wireless earbuds and a playlist to escape to while we wait. And we’re so glad we remembered to drop the little headphones in our pocket or purse.
You see where we’re going with this. Because the world has changed, so has our vision of what brings us solace, what we can say, “Thank you” for, and even who we go out of our way to say it and show it to.
Allowing gratitude into your life
“I feel bad feeling good while other people aren’t doing well.”
While this is something my son said to me just the other day as we were talking about how to celebrate Thanksgiving — just the three of us in our little immediate family plus our two dogs and the innumerable gophers in our yard — it is a running theme for many people I know. So many around us are being hit hard by what’s going down and if there is something that makes us feel good, makes us thankful, we can’t appreciate it because we experience “survivor’s remorse.” You know, that unbearable grief for “surviving” what has brought others down.
But consider this —
No one, literally, NO ONE has escaped the world’s current trajectory untouched. Whether incredibly life-changing — illness, unemployment, the passing of a loved one, losing a home — or we consider it merely stressful in comparison — healthy but policing your kids’ online school, working but unable to be with coworkers, with your loved one but getting on each other’s nerves or having a hard time connecting, keeping your home but feeling cabin fever — we’ve all been hit with something that impacts our lives. Everything is relative, isn’t it?
Feeling grateful is a gift and actively giving into it fulfills us, shows immense self-care and enhances our well-being. It also prompts us to give back to others, which in turn allows them to experience gratitude. And that is a beautiful way to embrace your thankfulness when you are suffering that survivor’s remorse. “I’m so thankful for this beautiful day. I think I’ll pass it on.” Hmm…
Turning that “I’m so thankful, but I feel so bad about it” into an “I’m so thankful, so I’m going to pay it forward” event creates that sense of gratitude in others. And then it builds and is passed along until it takes on a life of its own and actually makes a difference in many someones’ lives.
A giving of thanks to you
Imagine that. Flipping the script to spread that good you feel into other’s lives. And that is how we can change gratitude to mean even more than we thought it could. Every way you can show and share it creates an opportunity to truly feel the meaning of this much beloved holiday.
Perhaps the day is feeling less than ideal. But if there were ever a time to understand the real meaning of “thanksgiving,” a season for welcoming unique ways to show your gratitude and care for others, it is now.
There is so much good in the world. The smiling eyes above a mask. Moonlight dancing on the water. Crisp, cool air after a long hot summer. Moms, dads, kids, and every person who delivers the food that others cooked in their empty restaurant to our house, everyone who checks us out at any store, drivers who don't cut us off, customer service reps who patiently talk us down from the many ledges we find ourselves on at any given time, and each and every first responder in each and every part of the world. The number of gratitude moments open to us is infinite. Sometimes, it’s hard to see them, but they are all around us. And as we indulge in the gratitude of that one moment, another reveals itself, and another and another... until?
Not only are we giving thanks; we are thanks giving.