I’m not sure I’ve ever felt as blessed as I did this Thanksgiving. It was a day of almost complete harmony among my wife and I and our three daughters.
Our day began with a simple exercise of writing down the many people and things we were grateful for this year, in spite of all that has engulfed our nation and impaired our daily lives.
Under different circumstances, this request could have been met with eye rolls and pleas to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade. Instead, our children dove right in. Writing name after name after name until each had filled an entire sheet of paper. As we listened to each other read from our list, we were inspired to add more to our own that we had forgotten.
The depths of gratitude were apparent not just in the quantity of names but the quality of thoughtfulness that each indicated.
When the exercise was over. I told them that I was now going to reach out to at least twenty people on my list and let them know how grateful I was to have them in my life, suggesting that maybe they would like to let a few people on their list know the same.
Without further prompt, they scurried off to their rooms and sent notes and texts to friends and teachers. All five of us were taking the time to send a little bit of gratitude out into the universe. As I talked to friends on the phone or received returned texts of gratitude, I felt so blessed. And so too, I believe, did my children and wife. One daughter read to me the kindest note that she had sent to a friend. Another shared an email dripping with sweetness sent to her teachers. I was proud beyond measure.
Each helped in their own way as we prepared the meal and baked the pies. When the meal was over they dove into cleaning up in a way they never had before. Without complaint and working until all was finished.
Perhaps their aid was linked to their earlier expression of gratitude. New research shows that gratitude and giving are directly linked – both stemming from the same neural centers of our brain.
Speaking of giving, the other exercise we had asked our children to do in preparation for Thanksgiving was to research a charity they would like to support.
For every dollar of their own money, we would give five. Each presented their idea, born out of a recognition that something they appreciate was in peril for someone else. So our animal loving youngest, wanted to save endangered porpoises. Our competitive middle daughter wanted to make sure other kids have access to sports equipment needed to compete. Our oldest had just read a book, called Refugee, and, appreciating the value of home, wanted to help refugees searching for a new one. I had thought perhaps they’d offer up $1 or $5 of their own money – knowing we would match. Well I underestimated their generosity, and I am now $300 poorer in the wallet, but exponentially richer in spirit.
As the day turned into night, we video chatted with family members, ate some delicious pie, and laughed hysterically as we watched Planes, Trains and Automobiles.
One by one, everyone else went off to sleep. As the clock struck midnight, with the day of giving thanks technically over, I sat alone in my living room feeling truly blessed.
Willie Nelson once said, “When I started counting my blessings, my whole life turned around.” And so it was, that I felt that this crazy year had also done the same.