Thanksgiving has become my favorite holiday. The reason lies in its simplicity: The day is not laden with fervor. Rather, it is premised on a simple construct: Offering gratitude.
My friend Amy Collette has written a book titled The Gratitude Connection. One of the beauties of Amy’s work lies in its simplicity. It’s not a verbose treatise, but an easy, gentle, thoughtful exercise into giving thanks.
Amy describes offering gratitude as a practice that becomes a habit if consciously done daily. “It sneaks into all the nooks and crannies of your life,” she writes, which “pretty soon becomes a lifestyle and changes you in subtle ways.”
To whom or what should one give thanks? Another person or people, certainly. For some, the Universe; for others, a deified construction: e.g., God, Allah. For those fortunate enough to have been born into a land abounding with personal freedom and materialistic plenty, consider thanking Chance.
Giving thanks is an emotional experience. It causes one to feel better about himself. It also subtly infers one’s vulnerability within what can be occasionally a hostile environment.
Humans are an interdependent species; thus, showing gratitude serves as a powerful bonding mechanism that builds cohesion within a group. Narcissistic individuals’ self-centeredness and non-empathetic indifference are lethal to a tribe or community. Showing gratitude, on the other hand, to one’s neighbors and other tribal members will likely be reciprocated with offered hands in times of need.
The human default is to be thankful for “good stuff.” But what about being grateful for having in one’s life people that are flawed, such as the grumpy individual who seems never to have a kind word, or happenings that offers challenges? For life without them is mere existence without meaning.
I have a good friend whose house was recently completely incinerated. He managed to get out safely and save his animals, but materially, he lost nearly everything. He hasn’t, though, lost his sense of gratitude and wonderment for what he still has: His and his animals’ lives and the supportive network of friends and community among them.
As is beauty, gratitude is a human construct. Birds aren’t aesthetically selective when weaving nests, and your pet isn’t pondering what he/she could get or do for you on Pet Parent Day.
Joseph Campbell asked, “What’s the meaning of a flower?” The answer: Nothing. One gives it meaning. Otherwise, it’s a botanical product.
What’s the meaning of life? In the end, the Universe owes no one anything. Nature is a most unfeeling mother.
I opened with Thanksgiving being special due to its simplicity. After considering its deeper ramifications, it seems far more complicated.
Or maybe not. To be simply grateful for all that life holds, for life itself.
Thanksgiving is the one day set aside for our American family to reflect on more than its materialism.
Imagine 330 million people sitting around a rustic outdoor table laden with a cornucopia of delicious foods. A Californian asks, “Would someone please pass the bean salad?” A Texan takes the bowl the New Yorker has passed to him, hands it to his West Coast neighbor and says, “Here you go, brother.”
It’s that simple. Happy Thanksgiving.