Thanksgiving: Let’s give thanks

As an Australian, Thanksgiving was never part of my tradition. Nevertheless, it always sounded wonderful.

YOU CAN’T help feeling glad and grateful for blue skies and sunshine; the endless waves of the ocean rolling into the shore. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
YOU CAN’T help feeling glad and grateful for blue skies and sunshine; the endless waves of the ocean rolling into the shore.
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
As an Australian, Thanksgiving was never part of my tradition. Nevertheless, it always sounded wonderful. It originally began as a day of giving thanks for the blessing of the harvest the previous year. Pilgrims who emigrated from England in the 1620s carried the tradition with them to New England. I used to read about Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York, the luscious foods – turkey with cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie and the family get-togethers – and think it was a wonderful idea.
I wonder who remembers from their childhood a series of books about Pollyanna? Even though Eleanor H. Porter published them in America in 1913, they were still wildly popular when I was a child decades later. Pollyanna was an 11-year-old orphan who was the eternal optimist, even while living with her strict, unsmiling maiden aunt. She managed to be glad and give thanks for the most horrendous things, and little girl fans set up “Glad Clubs” all over the US and even in Australia where I lived. I never joined because when she was “glad” that she broke her leg and was given crutches instead of the doll she craved, she became just too goody-goody for me to swallow.
But some of the “gladness” seems to have stayed. Certainly on awakening each morning, I’m always glad of another day. The American tradition of Thanksgiving – friends and family sharing a meal as the pilgrims did in 1621 – seems a very positive celebration. Orthodox Jews give thanks after every meal, and blessings for many good things throughout the day. In Asian culture, bowing is a way to say thanks, just as Hindus place their palms together, bring them to their face and nod. In Bali, the Lomban Festival is held by fishermen to give thanks to the sea.
In each case, the underlying message is that of giving thanks for how wonderful and surprising and miraculous life is, with each new day an opportunity for fulfillment, friendship and happiness.
You can’t help feeling glad and grateful for blue skies and sunshine; the endless waves of the ocean rolling into the shore; the dewdrops in the heart of a rose; stars scattered like diamonds across the night sky; and trees donning new green lace at the approach of spring.
Giving thanks can be a secret weapon and a tool for protecting mental stability and promoting health. A huge amount of modern life’s trauma and unhappiness stems from a simple lack of gratitude. The fact of life itself is amazing enough. We only become unhappy when we indulge in the “me” culture of “I deserve more,” “I want something for nothing” and “I want compensation.” Counting our blessings is the best way to avoid the fatal self-absorption that can lead to an unfulfilled life, serious depression and even emotional or physical breakdown.
Giving thanks is part of an instinct for survival, because it’s useful and vital to be thankful for the world around us. It will help keep your balance through the sticky mire of life when there are troubles, losses or sadness that beset us all at some time. Yet there’s always something to be glad about if you look hard enough.
There are many strategies to keep you optimistic. Set aside just 10 minutes a day to focus on the good things in your life. Make a list if you like. This is an effective mood-boosting technique.
Savor just being alive. Remember those millions who are worse off than yourself in third-world countries. We have food and water and shelter, and these things should never just be taken for granted.
Show appreciation to family and friends who are always there for you. Say “thank you” often, even if it’s just to the bus driver who stopped for you when he didn’t have to. Buy some pretty “thank you” cards and send them to deserving friends. This is a powerful, emotional way to clarify the really important things in your life.
Comparing ourselves to people who have more is a recipe for misery. Remember envy is one of the deadly sins, and money has never been proven to increase happiness.
Relish life’s little pleasures… a cup of tea, a piece of chocolate, freshly laundered sheets, a bud that bursts into flower in your garden, the blessing of hot water. Be aware of them instead of dismissing them as trivial.
Finally, get things in proportion. Counting your blessings will help you when you must confront difficulties. You’ll see the bigger picture, and find that you have more going for you than you ever imagined. We can celebrate Thanksgiving even if we’re not American!
The writer is the author of 14 books. [email protected]