Giving Thanks

“Most human beings have an almost infinite capacity for taking things for granted.”  

                                                                                                                               –Aldous Huxley

“When eating bamboo sprouts, remember the man who planted them.”

                                                                                                                               –Chinese Proverb

Across our nation today, we gather to celebrate a universal American holiday—Thanksgiving.  In the midst of feasting and observing family traditions and customs, we are reminded that it is a special day set aside on our calendars when we are encouraged to not only reflect upon our blessings and the abundance in our lives, but to actually say “thank you,” in prayer and/or to each other.  Our focus shifts to gratitude, a virtue that is too often neglected, much less nurtured.

Unfortunately, that sense of appreciation often fades as our attention is diverted by the onslaught and hype of Black Friday, a shopping spree turned feeding frenzy that ushers in the high-pressured season where commerce is king.  We begin to think about what we don’t have rather than what we do have. When gratitude is absent, we will always feel lacking, wanting, and needy.  We forget to be grateful; we forget to say thank you.

Gratitude is a life-long practice that needs to be cultivated daily, not just on Thanksgiving.  If we could only realized how rich gratitude makes us feel, we might be compelled to devote more attention to that practice.  It is an antidote to that green-eyed monster, jealousy, curbing our inclination to make comparisons to those who have more than we do.  When we are grateful, we become conscious of the best parts of our lives, recognizing what is truly important and valuable, stabilizing and centering us.

Given that gratitude is life long, it is never too late nor too early to begin.  It is a value to be instilled in our children.  One of my friends, from the time her three children were small, would include—as a topic of discussion around the dinner table—what was the best part of their days.  Not only did that practice help them to be aware of what was positive and good in their lives—which were often the very small things—but to also be grateful for them.  Indeed, it is very often the small things that not only make us happy but the small acts of others which makes our world flow more fluidly.  So when giving thanks for the food on the table, be cognizant of the many hands that allowed that food to be there, beginning with the person who did the planting.

 


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