This time of year (November), I see all sorts of posts on Facebook about what people are thankful for. Some people cynically joke that they’ll be thankful when all the thankful posts are done. Even though I don’t post 30 things throughout the month, it’s nice to see what people are thankful for and the blessings others enjoy.
Yet, all this posting does beg the question: Why do people try to be thankful?
A few years ago, I wrote an article for a company’s newsletter on the History of Thanksgiving. What I found fascinating is that ‘Thanksgiving Day’ is far from being the, ‘first day of thanks’ celebrated by a people. Multiple countries and cultures, in fact, most cultures have celebrated a ‘Day of Thanks’ long before 1863 when America made it a holiday. It was also extremely interesting for me to re-learn the history of the Plymouth colonists and the Native Americans.
The Plymouth colonists had it rough! They were new to the Americas and were really struggling to make it. A vast majority of them died. It wasn’t until some very generous and kind natives decided to stay with them and teach them the ways of the land that there was any hope of survival. The Natives taught them how to harvest mussels, which plants and berries you could eat, which where poisonous, and what you could use for medicine….They basically gave the Colonists an extremely effective how-to-survive course. It was a sacrifice that a few very kind Natives made which benefited thousands, even millions, of Colonists and their ancestors’ lives. It is definitely an act we should all remember and be grateful for.
If the Natives had not stepped in, it is likely that most (if not all) of the Plymouth Company would have died. After lots of hard work, they began to survive. Things were not as bleak as they had been…and then what did they do? They set aside three full days to give thanks! They invited the Wampanoag’s to attend their feast and actually the Natives contributed the majority of the food that everyone ate. They feasted together and celebrated what few blessings they had.
I find it interesting how a people who lost so much, who suffered daily, and who were poor materially, set aside time to be thankful. They set a standard that: No matter what we are going through in life, if we have food to eat and shelter above our heads we have more than enough to be thankful for. Enjoying a ‘rich life’ is not always about what we have; it’s about how we prioritize things in our life. I think the colonists knew that gratitude is as important, or more important, than anything material.
Two weeks ago, I read in the scriptures that no matter how much thanks we can give to God, we can never thank Him enough for our blessings. That scripture really burned inside me and I have thought about it almost every day since. When we give thanks we acknowledge another person or the Almighty doing good to us and blessing us. By thanking that person or God, we make them feel good, and in turn it makes us feel good too. Yep, gratitude is giving credit where credit is due. When it is in the form of thanks, it is given freely and makes us all happy.
I love that feeling of gratitude. To keep it with me (not only in November, but year round), I always say my thanks/prayers in the morning when I get up. I also say thanks before each meal and every night before I fall asleep. In addition, I try to always have a prayer in my heart and thank the Lord in my mind each time I realize something I’m grateful for. Sometimes I wonder if the Lord gets tired of hearing me say thanks as I count my blessings throughout the day. When I think this, I remember that He has commanded us to be grateful and I have felt and I know that He appreciates me acknowledging His hand and other people in my life.
I’m not perfect, and there are days when I grumble. But giving thanks on a daily basis usually helps outweigh the tough parts in life, and results in a positive rather than a negative outlook.
Even if you are not religious and do not pray, just thinking about or saying the things you are grateful for out loud will bring a change in your attitude and life.
Although it is awesome that we have a day set aside to be grateful, we should strive to be grateful always. Give of your thanks freely and consistently and you will have more than enough to be thankful for, and you will be happier.
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