The tradition of indulging in an array of fine foods until you feel miserable is no longer reserved for celebrations–at least not in America. In fact, we could go so far as to say that not feasting is more of a rare occasion for many of us.
So, celebrating a day with an abundance of food isn’t really much of a proclamation of thanks when you think about it. It’s more of a Get Out of Guilt Free card.
Thanksgiving is about being thankful, you say. It’s about being with family, you say. That’s right. It is. So let me ask you this: When was the last time you were thankful for your electricity? For the last time it came on after an outage? Exactly. It’s hard to be thankful for what we take for granted.
The most meaningful Thanksgiving we ever had came the year we almost lost my husband. The minutes spent with one another suddenly became very dear to us. Not only were we keenly thankful for his life, but also for the people who walked beside us through those fearful days — their value glowed in our darkness.
That year, we saw my husband’s health slip away, along with our income. What was once expected became uncertain. What was taken for granted was lost. Suddenly, being thankful came from our hearts.
If I remember my third grade history correctly, the first Thanksgiving was in response to surviving sickness, starvation, and cold. They were thankful for the harvest their toil provided and for their very survival. They shared their abundance.
Good parents work hard to see to it that their children don’t suffer from want, keeping them healthy, ensuring the lights stay on, and making sure their rooms are warm. Comfort, however, is not the best breeding ground for thankfulness.
Gratitude is the common name for Thanksgiving. Gratitude is a way of life. It is a mindset.
Without a mindset of gratitude, it’s hard to appreciate the abundance we do have. Instead, we look past all the goodness around us and focus on what we think is missing. It takes practice to see what most people can’t.
This Thanksgiving, give your children and family the gift of gratitude. You can start by creating a new tradition of putting an open jar where everyone who enters can write down what they are thankful for on a slip of paper. After dinner pull the slips out, one by one, and let everyone take turns reading them aloud.
Return them to the jar and keep it on display. Throughout the year, whenever something wonderful happens — a new friend is made, someone got well, the lights came back on after a storm — add it to your jar. As the jar fills throughout the year, next Thanksgiving you’ll have a centerpiece of memories, a record of God’s goodness.
As you plant the seeds of gratitude within your family this year, your children will reap a harvest of Thanksgiving next year, and cultivate a lifestyle that will enable them to see the good, and be thankful through the times of want.