It occurred to me this morning that I’ve never written a Thanksgiving blog, but as it’s the Thanksgiving Long Weekend, I thought why not (for those of you reading this who are confused, Canadian Thanksgiving is celebrated on the second Monday of October).
As we all know, the real point of Thanksgiving is of course to give thanks. Its not just a reminder of pilgrims celebrating the harvest or of Frobisher making a safe sea voyage. It’s not just an opportunity to spend time with family and eat a set list of dishes that we dare not ever deviate from (tangent: I’ve still not recovered from that time, about 25 years ago that the cook at a Thanksgiving Youth Retreat I attended decided to serve pumpkin cake instead of pumpkin pie – you don’t mess with the Thanksgiving menu people!)
Thanksgiving is about taking time, in a very deliberate way, to express gratitude.
Yet I think the purpose or point of Thanksgiving is to go a little deeper. I think it’s meant to help encourage us to be thankful all the time, not just once a year. If we only give thanks once a year, it becomes simply a shallow routine, something we do out of some sense of obligation, or perhaps even a fear of bad karma if we don’t do it. And if that is the only reason we have to give thanks, we’ve learned nothing, and we are not truly appreciating all that we have, all the blessings that we benefit from every day.
The concept of giving thanks, or of expressing gratitude, is something I run into from time to time at church. My father has told me on more than one occasion that we don’t do a very good job of thanking people for all that they do, which is rather sad, since the vast majority of people who do things for the church are volunteers.
As pastor of my congregation, I have often failed to do a good job of expressing appreciation and gratitude for what people do. So I’ve been trying to be more deliberate with expressing gratitude, and for just appreciating what everyone does, *and* who everyone is. Not just at church, but in general.
Being thankful also helps to counter taking people for granted. This behavior is something we all do, and its been on my mind a lot for about two years or so now. I’ve been very slowly working on a blog on that topic, but it’s been a bit tricky to figure out what I want to say about it.
But it does really concern me that it seems to the normal, default conduct of humans to take people for granted – ironically, the people they care about the most might be the people they take for granted the most.
However, I like to hope that if we can make being thankful, or expressing gratitude, showing appreciation, etc., second nature, we might be able to minimize how often we take people for granted. And we need to ensure that it’s not just people that we avoid taking for granted. Every aspect of our lives is something that we potentially take for granted, and therefore, we need to be deliberate in our appreciation for everything that we have that we benefit from. Like heat in the winter time. When the freezing rain storm hit in 2013, a lot of things that we took for granted were gone: refrigeration, light, heat, entertainment, etc. Then it call came back. But did we learn anything from that experience? Did we learn anything from the grid failure in 2003?
Expressing gratitude can also be done in a variety of ways. It does not have to be about always saying “thanks”, though that is important, and I believe that people really appreciate being thanked. But showing appreciation can include treating someone to lunch, being available for others, giving recognition for countless hours of volunteer work, or any number of other ways of showing people that you love and care about them.
We can also express gratitude by being compassionate and by being charitable. If we support worthy causes, we acknowledge that we are fortunate, and want to do something to help others.
Being thankful, or expressing gratitude, or showing appreciation, or whatever you want to call it, is probably something that needs to become a spiritual discipline that we each practice, daily. If we can do this, I think it will help us to simply be more aware of what matters most. And perhaps the best way we can get in the habit of doing this daily, or weekly, or whatever works best, is to list the things we are thankful for. And perhaps to ensure that we keep that list in the forefront of our minds, we need to have the courage to share that list with other people.
So what I am I thankful for? There is so much. To begin with…
I’m thankful for the gift of life itself. I’m grateful that I exist.
I’m thankful for the life of my wife, for her willingness to share her life with mine. I love you.
I’m grateful for my parents, my in-laws, my sisters, my brothers-in-law, and my nieces & nephews. I love you all.
I’m thankful for all my friends from camp, reunions, and all the formative experiences of my youth. The years do not dim what you mean to me. You’re always in my heart, and I will love you always.
I’m grateful for having been born and raised in my church, and for all the friends I’ve made in the church throughout Ontario, Canada, the United States, and around the world.
I’m thankful for the technology that exists that has enabled me to make friends with some of the people who live in Africa, Europe, and elsewhere, as I would not know them otherwise.
I’m grateful for the friends I grew up with, the “gang”, the friends I still keep in touch with. Hate to say, it but I love you guys. Distance and time do not diminish these foundational friendships.
I’m thankful for visionaries, who are trying to push the church forward.
I’m grateful for unity in diversity.
I’m thankful for Community Place+ which is making a real difference, and I’m grateful that it’s foundational members have persevered through turmoil after turmoil, never losing their passion or sense of assurance that what they are building is right. Things will get better. This is your time.
I’m grateful for Community Plus+ which had the willingness and courage to create it’s own interpretation of the model built by Community Place+
I’m thankful for my job, which though it frustrates me from time to time, provides me with my income.
I’m grateful for all my friends at work, many of whom I’ve truly come to love and value, as they help me get through those hard days that we all have.
I’m thankful for my vacations.
I’m grateful for relaxing days because in my own weakness, I still hate the hard days.
I’m thankful to be Canadian because we see the world diferently.
I’m grateful for different ideas, opinions, viewpoints, convictions, as they help push me to be more honest with myself.
I’m thankful for all the people in the church Facebook groups who put up with my never-ending meandering back-and-forth debates.
I’m grateful for my childhood, for Rockfern & Robert’s Island
I’m thankful for Noronto, Ziontario, Erie Beach.
I’m grateful for the leaders of my church. I can’t imagine the pressure, stress, and crap they have to deal with.
I’m thankful for my health & for free healthcare.
I’m grateful for all that I own, for having a warm house to live in, a car to drive (when my wife lets me) and even for all the frivolous things that we all purchase (do I really need video games at my age? Yes).
I’m thankful for my favorite band and for having multiple opportunities to see Rush in concert.
I’m grateful for the courage and sacrifice of all those who fought in wars to defend freedom.
I’m thankful I’ve never had to fight in a war.
I’m grateful for my dog and for all my other pets.
I’m thankful for my LDS friends who are willing to explore in perpetuity, just as I do.
I’m grateful for the Seekers community, for their courage to explore something new.
I’m thankful for everyone who has been a mentor to me, or who I’ve learned something from. You’d be surprised who this would include.
I’m grateful for my wife’s love and for supporting me in all that I do.
I’m thankful for everything I’ve overlooked but should acknowledge.
What are you thankful for? This is not meant to be some sort of lets-all-just-shower-each-other-with-mutual-appreciation. Go deeper. What do you need to be thankful for?