Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays. It’s a time to be with friends and family, relax, share good food and laughter, and recharge.
There was a time when our children were growing up that we held the tradition of going around the table and each person taking a turn to share something they were grateful for. (We tried this before serving the food one year–not a good idea!).
Many wonderful sentiments were shared, some serious, some funny, but always heartfelt and true to the character of the sharer. Some expressions were accompanied by tears of gratitude and deep emotion that connected us at a deeper level with one another and the giver of all good gifts. It was a warm, wonderful part of our Thanksgiving celebration that I looked forward to each year.
The Thankful Challenge
A few years ago I discovered another aspect of gratitude that opened an entirely new world of meaning and insight for me. I was visiting with Brad, a mentor of mine about a particularly painful experience in my life. The conversation went something like this:
“Here’s a thought: Think about a wound, a painful experience, and tell me something you can be grateful for in it,” Brad suggested.
I stared at him like he was from another planet. Was he kidding?
“Grateful for?” I asked, half-calling his bluff. But I could see by the look in his eyes he was dead serious.
“Healing pain requires moving into the pain and discovering its message,” Brad continued. “Pain resisted only intensifies. Gratitude is actually a way of embracing the pain, of being open to discovering its story. What could be more painful than finding gratitude for your most trying, frustrating experiences? What could be more challenging than finding gratitude for those who have harmed you, abused you, or used you for their own selfish purposes? Gratitude can be a step that helps accelerate moving onto the healing path by moving into your pain and discovering its purpose.”
The Thankful Game
So, the thankful game for me now is to find gratitude for three type of things in my life:
Things, people, and experiences. This includes my wife and family, dear friends, my house, singing, my good health, personal freedom, mountain biking, my Higher Power, and trail mix. The list is quite long.
Taking the leap of faith and finding gratitude in my painful experiences. This is always easier in retrospect, but I find that by playing this “game” of looking for something to be grateful for in my difficulties actually accelerates the healing, and reveals the deeper wisdom and insight that are at the root of all life’s experiences.
I’ll admit, it’s a little unconventional, and not the easiest thing to do. But you will be surprised by the amazing insights and meaning that can come to you as a result of the exercise.
So as you sit down to eat your Thanksgiving dinner this year, even if you don’t go around the table and share thankful thoughts, give a few minutes of reflection about something (or someone) that may be nagging at you, and how today may be a day to find the meaning and purpose in such an experience. You’ll be thankful you did!