Ever since working through some health problems a few years ago, I wake every morning and the first thing I say silently in my head, is, "Thank you for another day."
With Thanksgiving right around the corner, it's timely to talk about gratitude and consider some of the ways we can cultivate it in our lives. It's hard to feel dissatisfied or down, if your attention is focused on counting your blessings. Aesop, the storyteller from 620 BCE, Ancient Greece, is credited with having said, "Gratitude turns what we have into enough."
Many people write down a list of things they appreciate in a Gratitude Journal, daily. It could be thanks for a warm conversation, thanks for the beautiful flowers in the garden, thanks for a breakthrough at work. It doesn't have to be a grand event or achievement. As an alternative to writing them out, you could take time on a morning walk to list them in your head. If you live with family members, you can each take turns over dinner sharing three things you're grateful for. Others might reflect at bedtime, or acknowledge their gratitude within prayer at any time during their day.
In my childhood in Canada, Thanksgiving was one of my favorite church services, with members of the congregation bringing an offering of colorful Fall vegetables or fruit to reflect the bounty most of us were privileged with. It was a beautiful outward expression of gratitude, but also served as a reminder to share what we have with those in need. In fact, Thanksgiving might be an opportunity to reach out to some of the people we appreciate and let them know what they bring to our life. It is an ideal time to give to individuals or donate to charities that serve more vulnerable populations. While many of us have a bounty to be grateful for, there are many who go without, are lonely or ill, or live with their basic needs unmet.
Loved ones who gather around a table together at Thanksgiving often take a moment to reflect, share and express gratitude for blessings in their lives. Even if this year we cannot gather together as much as we would like, the Thanksgiving season will always be an opportunity to reflect on our gratitude for the people, possibilities and blessings in our lives. Here is a simple game our family plays every Thanksgiving feast - that we call the Thanksgiving Alphabet game. It can be touching, funny, meaningful, surprising and heartwarming, for all ages. You can enjoy it with a partner, a family, a table of guests, or just by yourself:
Choose one person around the table to start with A. That individual will say something that begins with the letter, A, that he or she is grateful for. They can express one gratitude, or many. Eg. animals, apples, my friend Anna, cousin Amy. After they have answered, anyone else around the table can chime in with other A words they want to add.
Then on to the next person, and letter B, and so on. Continue all the way through to Z. T If little ones get caught up in the spirit throwing out words for things they love, and don't really know their letters yet, no worries! The main point is just to celebrate all we have to be thankful for! If a young child adds "Dad" or "Coco" (the dog) when the letter is B, that's okay too!
A.A. Milne wrote, "Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude."
What simple rituals or traditions can you start, or deepen, to cultivate your own sense of gratitude? Who might you say thank you to this week? Who in your life might be grateful for a loving gesture or show of support from you?