I’ll apologise up front to readers from across the Pond, but I’ve always thought of Thanksgiving as an extra holiday, shoe-horned in because you don’t get a proper break over Christmas as we do in the UK 🙂 Whilst being aware of the tradition that one joins hands and expresses something you’ve been grateful for during the past year, I’m afraid it’s always appeared to be more about the turkey and mashed potato to me.
Then one year, as my entire family was gathered around a table for lunch in late November, my sister who was visiting from her home in the US, asked that we join hands. Us “Brits” rolled our eyes but did as requested, if with a degree of embarrassment – only to be surprised by my sister’s words. She acknowledged her debt to us and expressed her thanks to us for the care we were giving my father – suffering at home with heart failure and two forms of dementia.
Her words caused me to stop and think. Even though we’d have cared for my father without them, I found I was grateful to her for the sentiment – that being appreciated gave me a warm feeling inside.
I have a problem with time-keeping and can be clumsy due to terrible balance, so I find myself apologising profusely not infrequently. The other day I apologised twice to someone for bumping into them; the second apology given after they’d told me it was absolutely fine. As I pondered on my behaviour, something drifted up from my subconscious – a suggestion that rather than apologising, we offer thanks to the other party. Instead of feeling daft, what if I’d said “thank you” when told “not to worry” about my accidental bump, rather than apologising again? Instead of apologising for being late, what if I expressed my gratitude for the patience being displayed in awaiting my arrival? I began to see how this might be a good idea …
The growing Happiness movement advocates a regular gratitude practice. I’ve observed its effectiveness, but never actively practised it; being a positive person by nature, I’ve never felt there was a need. But I have started to notice how draining it is when you are surrounded by the negative – by people who are in the habit of expressing their negative thoughts and feelings out loud. They will, in all likelihood, have no idea of the impact of their behaviour. The views they express may even be shared by you, so they’ll be unable to understand how what they’re doing could be perceived to be wrong. But there is an impact, if all you hear – all day, every day – is sadness, frustration, anger, of deceit and of greed.
In those circumstances, what can you do to lift your spirits? Could this be why cute cat and dog memes are rampant on social media? Does this explain the massive popularity of the fantasy genre in literature? When there is so much in the world that is Not Good, do we need to balance it with Anything Good, or to find ways to escape it?
Maybe finding a way to say thank you – to friends, strangers and to life itself is more than just a good idea – it might actually be necessary.
Do you following the practice of giving thanks on Thanksgiving? Do you have a system to lift your mood when your spirits are low – be that music, reading, exercise … or do you advocate gratitude?
© Debra Carey, 2019