Every year at Thanksgiving many begin their traditional meal by going around the table and asking everyone what they are thankful for this year. It’s a sweet little ritual and forces everyone to focus on what is positive in their lives. And then we eat. And nothing changes.
So lately I’ve been wondering what “giving thanks” really means. Most of us would say that it means volunteering and sending money to charities. But feeling gratitude is a instinctive and deeply personal experience. Most describe it as a warm sensation in their chest that brings happiness. So how do we give that?
All of us can probably name a family member or co-worker that we don’t get along with. Maybe we are too much alike or we are exact opposites. I am sure we can also think of an incident at a store, restaurant, or business where you felt that the other person was rude or treated you unfairly. Have you ever taken a moment and thought about what that person may be going through? Have you “walked a mile in their shoes?”
This reminded me of a blog post that I read in the Huff Post titled, “What Does ‘Giving Thanks’ Really Mean?” After mentioning a similar incident about a mean person, the author of the article went on to discuss the following:
“Last month when the foliage was its most vibrant, I mentioned to a scientist patient of mine how the leaves, like many people, are more beautiful right before they die. He told me that the bright colors are always in those leaves and they are hidden by the green chlorophyll. And when the chlorophyll diminishes in the fall, the true colors emerge. But do we really have to wait until the autumn of our lives for these colors to emerge? I wondered if we really had to wait until the autumn of our lives? Of course not, there are things we can do to make that happen earlier.
So between my scientist and my cousin Donald I realized what “giving thanks” really means. It means looking in someone’s eyes until you can see their vibrant colors beneath the chlorophyll, beneath the mask or the bravado or the prickly personality.
Try it with someone you love. Then try it with someone you don’t think much about — the person that pumps your gas or checks you out at the grocery store. Even try it with someone you have antipathy for — look in their eyes until you can find the tender heart and the vibrant colors beyond their skin color or body shape or behavior.
Because once you find their humanity you will discover your own vibrant colors. And then you will care deeply. And then the world begins to change.”
So, this Thanksgiving season I hope you will find out what it really means to give thanks.