Paying it forward on Thanksgiving
Thanksgiving is steeped in gratitude, the essence of the holiday. We take time to be thankful for all that we’ve had. But maybe flipping the meaning of the holiday a little bit would get us to look to what’s next instead of behind. Yes, I want to give thanks for so much, but I also hope to consider the holiday as a restart, a way forward.
Years ago I was asked to write a contributing post for an online publication about what makes an inspiring life, one that holds authentic meaning and how to sustain it. I am not a guru on this subject; I’m a student just like all of us. So, it was a bit of a mystery to me why I was asked to consider this theme. But I took it on anyway, believing I might learn something from consdiering this more deeply. I spent a great deal of time thinking about what it means to live an inspiring life; what it means to be grateful for what is and has been, yet nimble enough to carry the gratitude into the days ahead.
I recently revisited what I had written years ago and I thought I might uncover it this holiday season as a way to remind myself that at Thanksgiving the act of gratitude is more than simply giving thanks. It’s also about living authentically and sustaining our appreciation for what’s to come.
Here is what was on my mind then and now.
Truly listen. Look in the eyes of others and be in the moment. Wait to speak. Take in the words they offer and savor them before reacting. You might call this “the patience of thought.” You cannot honestly connect with another living thing if you are only considering your own response. Understand your fellow human and you will understand yourself.
Be kind. Consider your fellow human being’s experience, background, personal, and community struggles. Speak softly and with compassion, and do not raise your voice. Kindness is part of every spiritual endeavor. Even if you do not agree or believe in what someone has to say or how they are progressing through their personal life, you must be gentle with your guidance and your thoughts. You cannot walk in their shoes, only your own. We are more alike than we are different.
Be your vision. Don’t strive to be the person you want to be, just be it. The power in being the best you comes through the decision to be that person every single day. It’s not necessarily about dreams or specific goals, but more about a belief in your own vision. Stand up everyday and be the person you admire.
Live with simplicity. Realize that whatever you have is probably enough. Do not permit materialism or consumerism to decide your worth or your pleasure. Savor what is in front of you and do not strive for false satisfaction in more “things” or “opportunities.” Scrub out your cupboard, clean your garage, and clear your mind of clutter. Eliminate what is not needed. Less truly is more.
Embrace something bigger than you. The universe is an enormous, diverse, and rich entity and there are many wonderful mysteries. Find your personal mystery and allow it to enhance your existence—pray to a god, get lost in nature, meditate. Find where you fit into the world and then give yourself up to the beauty of something more powerful than you. It is truly the way to peace.
I’m hopeful this little list will go down nicely with homemade stuffing, cranberry sauce, and sweet potatoes swimming in butter. just like grandma used to make. Good food and grateful thoughts, they always go together.