Thanksgiving: What Happens When We Don’t Feel Thankful?
Most holidays are spent with family members or loved ones, eating and drinking, while reflecting on gratitude and appreciation of each other. But, consider this…with all of the single or divorced women, military personnel or spouses that are traveling and kids in school who are away from their families during Thanksgiving and other holidays, do you consider the holiday times have become stressful instead of thankful?
Thanksgiving was always a fun time for me when I was a little kid. Our families would drive for hours just to be together on this special day. We would celebrate the “family” while eating way too much food, play games and tease each other with all the cousins, all the while letting our parents and grandparents sit around the table and tell stories about their childhood. It was just a great time. Then, we grew up and began having children and families of our own. The theme shifted and so did our holiday traditions.
Without a doubt, as an adult, I have never personally cared for Thanksgiving. It is supposed to be a time to be thankful, a time to be helpful and full of gratitude, a time to be gracious and to serve others. I never found any person to compliment my solid core values on this when I was dating or married. So, I just sort of went with the flow. And I hated it. Looking back, I cannot believe I succumbed to that. It wasn’t until I was divorced and was raising my son that I finally began my own traditions for all of the holidays. Whew. Yes, this was so much better!
So what can you do as part of your Thanksgiving traditions?
1) Give back to those less fortunate:
I was able to work with my college students and perform service learning at homeless shelters. We served 705 meals each night around Thanksgiving time. My students described the experience as humbling. I had four classes at that time and each class worked with the homeless population on two occasions. Many students are still working now during their own free time – four years later – with the homeless. I am thankful we all had this opportunity of learning and helping.
2) Do simple things to show you care:
Being thankful can be as simple as helping your next door neighbor take out their trash, pay for groceries for the person in front of you (if you can afford to do so), drive a friend to work, or notice that you are still able to even drive your own car. Thankfulness is gratitude for the abundance in your life. Who do you know who may be alone, unhappy, and just plain grouchy? Perhaps this person is terribly lonely and just needs some love. I am speaking of brotherly love. What if it has been so long since this person has experienced any type of joy that they have given up on life, given up on love, and given up on humanity? Are they worth reaching out to? I think so.
3) ‘Break bread’ with someone you normally wouldn’t spend time with:
The next time you are planning a meal, make a little extra and take it over to your neighbor, or better yet, invite them to break bread with you. If not your neighbor, think of someone you may work with who is a loner. Perhaps this person would really enjoy a home-cooked meal, a dessert, or an offer to spend time with you.
Thanksgiving is only once each year. We do not need to wait for Thanksgiving to roll around to be kind to others, give thanks, and show gratitude for beauty or for the things we value and love. Do you want to know what the best thing of all is? Being thankful does not cost you one dime. You can be thankful in prayer, meditation, and service each and every day. ©Copyright – Gayle Joplin Hall, PhD.
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