My favorite holiday is Thanksgiving. And it’s not because it falls on my birthday every four years (as it does this year). I love Christmas for the songs, decorations, and spiritual reflection. I love Halloween for the costumes, creativity, and child-like joy. Both Christmas and Halloween fight for my second favorite holiday slot; but my favorite, remains Thanksgiving.
The Thanksgiving holiday encompasses some good and bad “stuffing.” Thanksgiving, at its core, is a celebration of our history as a nation and the supposed coming together of cultures; the proverbial “breaking of bread” between two groups. But, let’s be honest, the history is a bit “wonky” to use technical terms, and that history essentially includes the slaughter of people. The “wonky and the slaughter” are certainly not things I bow my head to celebrate, although breaking bread with others certainly would be.
I love football, so one could assume it is part of my love fest with the Thanksgiving holiday. I do love the tradition of waking up, cooking, spending hours watching the pre-game, screaming at the television, and then finding a way to shovel in plates of food. It may sound like an easy thing to do, but for me, Thanksgiving has usually included an embarrassing Detroit Lions loss, so my appetite is often ruined. This is a newer phenomenon in recent years, and I’m hoping the Lions tradition returns to eating some turkey rather than being the turkey.
But, even with my love of all things football, the great game is also not the reason I love Thanksgiving.
I love to cook, to bake and to eat. Man, I love to eat. But, those are not the reasons I love Thanksgiving, either.
It may sound awful corny, but the truth is that I love the general idea of celebrating gratitude. Gratitude may not be at the forefront in our decorations, or even in how many people approach the holiday. But, to me, gratitude defines Thanksgiving. Hell, the entire “slogan for the day” encompasses “giving thanks.”
Having gratitude, to me, is a key ingredient to being happy.
Years ago when I lived in California, I talked to friends and coworkers about appreciation and how so many of us never express it to others; especially the day to day “strangers” we encounter. I made it my goal to rope people into expressing random appreciation, and I led the troops in calling or visiting random places and sharing a bit of thanks. I called random city offices and said “I just want you to know that I appreciate all that you do for the community.” Apparently expressing appreciation is so uncommon in our culture that typically people were uncomfortable in even responding. I usually received nervous giggles, followed by a thank you. A few times the person on the other line simply hung up the phone.
I found when I did such activities in person, responses were usually a bit better, but nervousness and uncomfortable mumbling still reigned supreme. How sad, really, that hearing a “thank you” or words of appreciation stirs that uncomfortable bug in many of us. Are we all so unfamiliar with gratitude that we scare upon its arrival?
Part of the Thanksgiving tradition is sitting at a dinner table with family and friends, and prior to enjoying a lavish meal together, sharing words of gratitude with one another. I love that tradition. In fact, I love the tradition so strongly that I propose spreading it into the world as often as possible. Instead of saving gratitude for one day of family, football and food, let’s make it a daily tradition, every day of the year.
It shouldn’t be second nature for us to have and express gratitude, it should be first nature. Being appreciated shouldn’t make any of us feel uncomfortable; it should be something we routinely receive and openly embrace.
As cheesy or corny as I know it all sounds (and how sad that we are so uncomfortable with these topics that our corny juices stir), it’s why I’m most excited for my favorite holiday next week.
This year, Sam and I will be with her family in Florida. I certainly have tremendous gratitude that we are able to make the trip, and that we are able to get some rare time with her family. I love my wife more than words could ever express, so I inheritably appreciate having time with people important in her life. And though I fear for their safety, as gratitude goes out the window when I watch the Lions, I’m very thankful for the chance to all just be together.
Having gratitude is a key ingredient to being happy. So, as we pull out the spices, and warm up the gravy, let’s remember to stir in that key ingredient; everything tastes better with a little gratitude. Warm up the rolls, and pass the yams, please.
Happy Thanksgiving to All! And a sincere and loving “Thank You” to friends and family; having each of you in my life is a blessing and my gratitude has no end.