Thanksgiving. Close your eyes. Think about the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word “Thanksgiving.” No judgments here. You don’t even have to say your answer out loud. And, regardless of your answer, you shouldn’t have a second thought that judges the first thought. I did this exercise and my mind was taken to childhood table decorations before the big family meal. I specifically zoomed in on those silly table decorations, the accordion-style turkey. Do you remember? Where it folded flat until you opened it up and clipped it with a little metal tab (the tab you kept pushing under your fingernail even though that always hurt). I did sort of judge that initial thought and so closed my eyes and did it again. The second time my brain landed on sweet potatoes with marshmallows melted on top (thanks, Aunt Pam). No judgments, right?
For now, let’s skip the go around the table and say what you are thankful for this year because in the same way I thought of a wrap around crepe paper turkey, you might also not be programmed to call to mind everything for which you are grateful. Moreover, having someone tell you to be thankful is like forcing your 11 year-old to say “I’m sorry” after he punches his brother. He might be sorry he didn’t swing harder or throw another punch before you entered the room, but that doesn’t make him contrite or nudge him along the path to righteousness. Having said that, and I did say that, I am going to give you just a teeny little push.
Let’s do the exercise one more time with just a little more focus. Instead of asking are you thanking or are you giving this Thanksgiving, let’s put it this way, is there something you do everyday, something you depend on that relies on the kindness or effort of someone else? If so, do you thank them? Do you thank them every time? Answering no isn’t a bad thing (remember: no judgments). But, if you aren’t saying thank you, does your approach to that person acknowledge your gratitude? Last year, in this space, I talked about thanking people who make your work life (is that an oxymoron) tick. I just reread what I wrote and think I have some gratitude to express because I am surrounded by some very giving co-workers. When I am on the receiving end of the gratitude, I love when someone says “thank you,” but am happier when their actions tell me that what I did for them was appreciated. Wanting that is easy. Showing gratitude with your own actions is the challenge. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family.