Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday. During my childhood and into my teens my participation involved helping to prepare food, setting the table, eating what I believed to be the best meal of the year, and then of course the endless washing and drying of dishes. The chores seemed a small price to pay for the honor of feasting on my mom’s delicious Thanksgiving spread. Years later I hosted my own Thanksgiving feasts; the reward for my labor was the joy I felt having created a space for gratitude with my family and friends.
This morning, I sit at my kitchen counter while green beans steam, the dish I am responsible for today as my sister Susy has taken on the big job of hosting. In a just a few hours, the masses will descend on her lovely home, we will give thanks and devour in minutes what took hours to prepare. But mostly and more importantly, gratitude will be the honored guest. And while she may not have a place at the table, her presence will be known through our words and our actions; the warm hugs, the sweet kisses, the welcoming of those who need a family today, the story telling and reminiscing, and the loving acknowledgement of those we miss, those who live on in our hearts.
If I am completely honest, there were a few years I found it very hard to be grateful. I said the words, but inside overwhelming sadness prevented me from appreciating all the many wonderful things that existed in my life, but somehow I chose to ignore. I let sadness and a broken heart get the best of me.
Today, as my heart is lifted by feelings of gratitude, I also feel deeply for those who are suffering terrible sadness. For more friends and acquaintances than I care to count, life threatening illness has them praying for miracles, or accepting terrible loss. For others, a chair is empty at their table and the pain still close to their hearts. The holidays can be an extremely sad and difficult time of year. I wonder how these folks are faring today. I reach out and tell them I am thinking of them. Somehow wishing them a Happy Thanksgiving seems cruel, even false. Instead, I will tell them I am grateful for their presence in my life, for the lessons they teach me as I watch them bravely navigate their personal struggles, and for the smiles they bring to my face even when they are hurting.
So . . . on this Thanksgiving Day . . . I am grateful for learning the lessons of gratitude, for finally understanding the ways in which regular and consistent expressions of gratitude, from the heart, can and have completely changed my life. My life is far from perfect, but it’s perfect for me.
For those who are in midst of difficult times, who for whatever reason struggle to embrace gratitude, I promise you, one day you will find a reason, you will find your way. In the meantime, know you are loved, by family, by friends, by me.
From the bottom of my grateful heart . . . Happy Thanksgiving.