The Meaning of Thanksgiving: An Attitude of Gratitude

Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others.” ~ Marcus Tullius Cicero

After a challenging journey across the Atlantic, battling strong winds, gigantic waves, and experiencing numerous problems with the ship, the Mayflower landed at Plymouth Rock on December 11, 1620. Of the 103 pilgrims who left Europe, only 56 survived the difficult months that ensued. Of great help through this particularly challenging period was the friendship they formed with the Native American Indians. Their new neighbors taught them how to hunt and fish – and later, as the weather improved, the pilgrims were able to farm.

The Pilgrims reaped their first harvest in the fall of 1621 and celebrated their bounty in a festival of thanksgiving to God for that with which He had blessed them. Indeed, the new colonists had much to be thankful for: despite the challenges, they had made the treacherous journey across the Atlantic, built a thriving colony out of the wilderness and were living in peace with their neighbors. The festival lasted for three days.

In 1817, the state of New York adopted Thanksgiving Day as an annual holiday. And in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the last day of November “as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise.”

Today, our Thanksgiving holiday presents a very different picture from that first festivity of 1621. It has evolved into a four-day weekend of feasting, football and floats. “Turkey Day” – as the celebration is commonly called – is a time to gather with family and friends. It is a day for huge meals, dinner parties, get-togethers and reunions. While the holiday is generally observed as an expression of gratitude, to God, Thanksgiving also marks the start of the American holiday season – another example of how the focus of the holiday has shifted so dramatically from when it was first observed. The spirit of thankfulness for blessings is slowly disappearing and is now almost completely lost under a cloud of media hype, sales pitches, marketing tactics and blitz commercialism.

So, what is the true meaning of Thanksgiving?

While Thanksgiving Day may be the day when we serve up large portions of turkey and pumpkin pie, we should also consider serving up hefty portions of gratitude.Even though we live in the wealthiest country in the world, there are many who are frustrated with life because they never seem to be able to get the things that they want. Is that how you feel…..stressed out and unfulfilled? What would it take for you to feel happy? We all have different ideas about what it takes for us to feel accomplished or at least feel that we are making progress towards our goals. However, I have discovered that one of the most powerful tools we have at our disposal is to be thankful – to have an attitude of gratitude.

Gratitude is much more than just saying thanks. It is a state of being that appreciates all that is good and welcomed in our life. It is expressing appreciation for each new day, for life, for each other. It is cherishing the gifts we have been given; being thankful for nature and the Earth, for humankind and for those who are closest to us – our parents, partners and children.

Students of the law of attraction explain that gratitude can put you in alignment with your deepest desires. Being grateful for what is, including areas in which you feel you are lacking or you have a sense of loss, empowers you as a force of attraction. Feeling grateful despite feelings of loss or lack in your life helps you to understand and appreciate the blessings and the abundance that surrounds you. That’s what the Pilgrims demonstrated in that first Thanksgiving.

Today, we live in a culture that sends a very loud and clear message: “More is better!” As a result, people tend to take things for granted. In their pursuit of happiness, they spend much of their time sulking about things they desired or thought they deserved but did not get and bemoaning how difficult it is for them to reach their goals. Now, I am by no means suggesting that you should settle for a mediocre life. On the contrary, I place a very high value on achievement. What I am suggesting is that you spend less time brooding over your misfortunes and invest more time reflecting on the abundance in your life. Such a habit will help you to develop a keener sense of awareness of how fortunate you are and the tremendous blessings you enjoy.

Undoubtedly, this is not an easy proposition especially when you consider the tough economic environment we have been experiencing over the last few years and even more recently the devastation of Hurricane Sandy across the East Coast. Certainly, losing your job or watching your home being destroyed by a super hurricane is hardly a joyous occasion. Nonetheless, I contend that even during these trying times, one can still find reasons to express gratitude.

I believe that is what Thanksgiving is about – the depth of gratitude you feel for the goodness and blessings in your life despite the adversity and challenges you are facing.

As such, let us be mindful not only to be thankful on this one day in November but on every other day of the year.

Keep On Pushing!

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