“I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.”
Gilbert K. Chesterton
Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and we are all trying to get here and there, whether we are rushing to the airport, to the grocery store or loading up the car to see family and friends to celebrate Thanksgiving. We are frantic, stressed, concerned about this relative or ingredients for that special traditional dish. Looking at everything going on around me, I wondered if our country’s founders, the Pilgrims, worried about such things? My sense is that they simply wanted to come together to celebrate gratitude. Gratitude is the foundation of tomorrow’s holiday.
So what does it mean to truly be thankful? Being thankful begins with simply being in this moment right here right now. Being grateful for being alive, being able to read this, being grateful for your vision, your ability to read, and being filled with joy because you have family or friends to celebrate with. It begins with just knowing how blessed we are to be alive.
I learned the lesson of true gratitude from my dad on Thanksgiving sixteen years ago. My Dad had been on vacation with my mom and his best friends early that November. They had all been at lunch and were heading to the perfect beach, a few weeks before Thanksgiving, when in a blink their lives were forever changed by a horrific car accident. My mom was gone, my dad’s long time friends were gone and he was in a coma. He had a broken back, broken ribs, punctured lungs and he died twice. He awoke from his coma to learn he had lost so many people he loved, a nightmare.
However, he survived and came home that year from the hospital on Thanksgiving Day. A day that traditionally my mom would have been cooking, fussing, ironing napkins and bringing everyone together as she always did. That year we ordered our turkey and Thanksgiving dinner as take out. We set the table and all of us were numb, we had just had three funerals and a newborn niece, born a day after my mom’s funeral.
We wheeled my Dad into the house and rather than cry, or complain, or say one unkind word my Dad was remarkable. He was quieter than normal but he was filled with enormous gratitude to simply be alive. His gratitude was his presence and he showed each of us through example what mattered was that we were alive and we were together. Nothing else mattered. It was the best Thanksgiving we ever had.
Today, sixteen years later my dad can still be grumpy on the outside (think of Clint Eastwood, “get off my lawn”) and yet when you ask him how he is doing, he looks you in the eye and says he is here and that is a good thing. What I’ve learned from my Dad is that no matter what is happening right now, you need to find gratitude, even when things are bad.
I’ve learned that life is precious and to live it like each moment is your last. Make the most out of opportunities that come across your path. We are each given one shot at this thing called life and we need to make choices everyday if we want to spend it being present with those we care about or worrying about something insignificant….those moments are a choice.
Being grateful to simply be alive and for the life you have is what it truly means to be thankful. My sense is that the Pilgrims felt the same way, their life was not a picnic and yet they were grateful for food and freedom. This Thanksgiving, I am grateful I am not cooking, grateful to be with those I love and grateful for love, health and family…all lessons my Dad taught me on what it truly means to be thankful.
Wishing each of you the joy of gratitude and blessings for the most joyous Thanksgiving!
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