This year I think the lists may be a bit simpler than in the past for what folks say they are thankful for. The usual answers like “I’m thankful for my family” and “I’m just thankful for my health” will remain at the top, but this year I am expecting to hear more responses like “I am thankful for the little things” or “I’m thankful this year for having a job and keeping my home.” No matter what the response trend brings this year, things will continue to change year after year as they always do, even when we are too busy to notice the subtle movements.
This may be the time of year that some families pray just one day giving thanks to God, showing they believe, yet unwilling to acknowledge Him at any other time except perhaps Christmas and Easter. I will agree that giving thanks once is better than none at all, but if we truly believe there is a God to thank, we should be doing it so very much more often. I like to change the way of thinking therefore instead of supporting this yearly habit. I want to model one who gives thanks to God much more often than just around a large turkey with family and friends. I personally try to dwell on a positive outlook everyday and give thanks much more often than just turkey day.
I’ve even taught my 5th grade classes over the years to look at their Thanksgiving-time observations a little differently. Instead of teaching my students to reflect on the year as most people traditionally do, I have them think of things that are usually considered negative and turn it positive. I’ve always enjoyed being slightly unpredictable and the looks on my students’ faces each year shows that this is one thing they didn’t see coming. I like to share with them the idea of changing negatives into positives by giving them these examples: “Even so, I’m thankful for a messy bedroom because it means I had lots of fun there” and “I’m thankful for catching a cold because it means I can stay home and get my mom’s undivided attention”. Their expressions change from confusion to excitement as they realize they are capable of coming up with their own examples, now that they understand the task and become excited by the challenge. They begin to furiously write down their own creative ideas, and year after year, show a sense of true accomplishment with this challenge. They are proud to volunteer some of their own examples of ‘Even so, I am thankful… “For getting a C on my report card because it reminds me that I can do better”, “For brussel sprouts because I am reminded I can taste”, “For lots of dirty dishes to do because it means I had a great dinner”, and “For seeing homeless people because it reminds me to thank God for what I have.”
So this Thanksgiving, I am thankful for my family, friends, health, and also for being able to grow creatively and resourcefully as my family, maybe like yours, has suffered hardships this year. I like to remind myself that there are things to be thankful for constantly if only we allow ourselves to notice.