I know I’m a few days late for a Thanksgiving-themed post, but the long weekend gave me some time to think about what exactly gratitude means to me. Thanksgiving is an awfully fun holiday, usually packed chock-full of food and family and friends. There is pie and wine and binge-eating and carb-loading. There is music and laughter and impromptu games of touch football and chilly walks in the woods. These are all things I love. But sometimes I wonder if all the food and fun doesn’t distract us from what Thanksgiving is about.
I’m not talking about Pilgrims and Native Americans (although I recently learned that the First Thanksgiving probably featured eel as a main course, among other things). I’m talking about being grateful for the things we busy, self-absorbed, attention-challenged humans rarely take the time to thing about, let along express our gratitude for. In 1621, a feast was held to celebrate a good harvest and the sharing of knowledge between two disparate people. These days, what does the feast stand for? Does gorging ourselves on stuffing and pie really express our gratitude for all the things we own and the people we love and the lives we experience?
I know that I do not give thanks for my life often enough. It is too easy to look at my life and think about the things I don’t have, or the things I have not yet accomplished. To rue the mistakes I have made, and not celebrate the good things I have done. To fear an uncertain future instead of looking forward to a realm of opportunity. But I have much to be grateful for. The basics: my health, a sound mind, a pantry full of food, a roof over my head. And then the not-so-basics: family and friends who love me, a passion for my career, a great relationship, happiness. My life is so full of wonderful things, and in this huge, complicated, violent world, so many people do not have even half of what I have.
The holiday season is now in full swing, complete with a Black Friday and a Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday. It is a small irony that on Thursday we give thanks for all the things we have, and the very next day we go out to get more things. December is a wonderful month, bright with twinkling lights and warm with cheer and excitement. But as we sip our eggnog and unwrap our presents and feast at our plentiful tables, perhaps we can also find the time to be grateful. Grateful for our families and our wealth, be that material or immaterial. Grateful to live, here in this wonderful, crazy, imperfect world.
And maybe, just maybe, a tad bit grateful that we don’t have to eat eel for Thanksgiving dinner.