Giving thanks during the year

As my father’s favorite holiday, Thanksgiving gets special treatment in our family home.

Sure, we observe many of the same turkey and football traditions you’ll find in other families. We spend time together helping to prepare the feast, watching a few games on the TV and playing cards by the warmth of the fireplace.

Like other families with college students, we like catch up on what’s been happening at school since we left home in August. Sometimes we haven’t seen much of each other since the end of summer.

Thanksgiving is especially important in our home because of the priority my father has always placed on gratitude. He would tell you there isn’t enough of it in the world today. And everyone, particularly in America, has something to be thankful for.

There is one Thanksgiving tradition I’ve come to enjoy over the years. (As a child, it was just an activity we did every year, but when I grew older, I realized its significance.) Usually after my father has said grace and most of the dishes have been passed around, each person around the table will tell of something he or she is thankful for this year and why.

Some of us will be thankful for good health, a better job or a promising new relationship. We’re often thankful for the safety of our family members in the military. We’re thankful for another year of productivity and achievement.

Sometimes my brothers or sisters will say they’re thankful for good grades in a tough class or for the support of a family member during a stressful semester. We’re usually thankful for a number of blessings – it’s hard to single out just one.

I often consider the thanks we’ll give around the same table in years to come. We’ll surely be thankful for more blessings such as our first homes, our first children and our first career jobs. I’ve always found certain optimism in myself and others during Thanksgiving, and it must be one of the reasons I’m so fond of this time of year.

My father raised us with the knowledge that what you’re thankful for is not nearly as important as whom you give your thanks to. After we share something we’re thankful for, my father emphasizes this point. It’s central to the way we celebrate the holiday. Since we’re a Christian family, we feel we owe our thanks to God. We believe He is the source of all our blessings.

Even families who are not religious should entertain the question: who do you thank for the good in your life? Do you owe thanks to someone special, someone who makes a difference? Do you thank a family member, a teacher, a business partner or a significant other? Do you have only yourself to thank?

Without thinking about who we have to thank, the Thanksgiving holiday simply becomes a shallow celebration of personal good fortune: I’m thankful for the things I have and the good things that have happened to me.

When we consider who we have to thank, Thanksgiving becomes less self-centered and more people-centered. Thankfulness ceases to be some vague feeling of gratitude we entertain within ourselves for a day. Thankfulness becomes a meaningful sentiment and a glad gesture we extend to God, to our families and to our friends. It’s a feeling that connects us one to another.

When you’re on your way home for Thanksgiving this week, take a moment to consider who you have to thank. If you’re religious, you may want to give a prayer of thanks – you know, more than just saying grace on the food. If you’re not the religious type, then make it a point to say thank you to people who play important roles in your life. Let these people know how much they’re a blessing to you.

Being thankful this time of year is easy, especially if you’re one of the lucky ones getting a college education and getting to see your family for the holidays. It’s my hope that we share some of that thankfulness in ways that others can recognize and appreciate.

This entry was posted on Monday, November 21st, 2011 and is filed under Opinion. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.

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