Over the last week while I was experiencing yet another wonderful Thanksgiving with family, like so many others, I spent a good portion of time reflecting on the many things for which I am thankful in my life. As my list continued to grow, I got stuck thinking about the word “Thanksgiving” and I was perplexed by the “Lists of Gratitude” my friends were sharing on Facebook. Just as I was doing, most of us default to expressing gratitude or as the Holiday implies, “Giving Thanks” for the things we have received, the health we enjoy, or the people in our lives we are lucky enough to call “Friend”. As I thought about it more, that concept became more and more flawed. Though I believe it is right to express gratitude for the things we receive, the act of focusing on that which flows our way is rather “Me-centric” and some might even consider it selfish. Though I never take my good fortune for granted, I began to think primarily of the people whom I may have given reason to be thankful, the lives to which I may have contributed over the year, and the words of President Calvin Coolidge, “No person is ever honored for what he received. He was honored for what he gave.” In essence, I focused on the belief that this holiday has less to do about being thankful for what we receive than it does being thankful for what it is we are able to give. The day suddenly appeared to me as yet another opportunity to appreciate those in our life who truly give to others whether or not their generosity flows in our direction. It is not as much about giving thanks as it is being thankful for “The Givers” in our life. It’s not about being thankful for the good fortune of your favorite sports team, nor is it about the material goods that are now in your possession. It’s not about us at all!
Next Thanksgiving, why not make a list of the people whom you believe to have given reason to be thankful for you, a list of actions you took that might have been reason enough for a simple expression of gratitude to be directed your way, or a list of people in your life who you categorize as “Givers”? It matters not if your contribution was acknowledged, but it matters greatly that your contribution was made. It is right to be thankful for one’s own good fortune, but it is even more righteous to give others reason to be thankful for theirs. As I finished my Thanksgiving inspired reflection, I left with the firm belief that I am most thankful for all of the “Givers” in the world and grateful that I am fortunate to be able to categorize so many of my friends and family as such. I continue to aspire to give as many people as I can reason to think of me in the same vein. As you begin to make your goals for the New Year, how many thank you cards will you write this year? How many will you give others reason to send to you?
Giving thanks speaks to actions of consumption. Giving others reason to be thankful, now that’s living. The most accurate means of measuring the significance of any given day may very well be the number of times we have reason to say “You are welcome.” How many times did you have the privilege of uttering those words today? What’s your high score?