I'm a big fan of Thanksgiving because the focus is so simple. It's all about the food and the fellowship. Unlike Christmas, there are no Thanksgiving gifts, no special decorations, and no fear of offending someone who might not believe in turkey when I say, "Happy Thanksgiving."
This year, however, Thanksgiving wasn't that great because my father-in-law died the next day. While he had a number of health problems, his death was somewhat sudden and unexpected. He was only 76.
The experience made me look at the holiday with a new perspective.
The very word "thanksgiving" reminds us to be thankful for the good things in our lives. Yet, it is often the tragedies we experience that really make us appreciate what we have. Once we've lost something important, we see how valuable it was.
The people affected by Hurricane Sandy understand this. The people who have lost jobs understand this. The people who have experienced the death of a loved one understand this.
The challenge on a day-to-day basis though is to practice the same level of appreciation when things are going well -- not just after a difficult experience.
To do this, it takes a conscious and focused effort. Here are a few suggestions to create a continuous thanks-giving state of mind:
Focus on the moment. I've said it before and I'll say it again (which, by the way, is not focusing on the moment but on the past and the future). This moment is all we have. If we're not fully present in what's happening or what we're experiencing, we will miss the opportunity to appreciate it. Our lives fly by. Don't miss out by looking the wrong way.
Be grateful first. When someone cuts you off in traffic, it's easier to get angry at the injustice of their not respecting your space than it is to be grateful that you didn't have an accident. Sometimes our tendency is to see what's wrong rather than what's right.
Let people know you appreciate them. As the president of a national association, I see great value in letting people know how much I appreciate what they do. Whether they're a paid staff member or a volunteer, I believe everyone wants to know that what they're doing is worthwhile. And if I can give someone else the gift of appreciation, I have made their world a little better.
Don't wait. There's an old saying that goes, "Don't do today what you can put off until tomorrow." It's easy to assume that there is always time to do the important things in our life. Yet, we never know when time, health, or circumstances will prevent us from accomplishing those goals. So, just do it -- now.
Lila Green said, "Time flies whether you're having fun or not." I would also add, "whether you appreciate it or not."
We shouldn't wait for Thanksgiving to be appreciative. Instead, we should celebrate thanks giving every day.
For more by Ron Culberson, MSW, CSP, click here.
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