How should we celebrate Thanksgiving this year when so many people are still battling the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy? When some won’t be back in their own homes in time for the holiday and others have no possibility of ever again eating turkey in the homes they’ve known? When the Middle East may spin apart any minute? When scandal and small-mindedness riddle our government?
It doesn’t feel like Thanksgiving this year. It doesn’t seem right to be enjoying pie, watching football, seeing how the kids have grown and critiquing the new recipe for stuffing and which travel routes people took to avoid the traffic.
Of course, at a time like this, it’s right to be helping other people, sharing some of what you’ve got, contributing and volunteering. Yes, that feels better, and you’re probably already doing it! But it’s hard not to miss the things that are cozily familiar about Thanksgiving — even if you didn’t love all of it.
Maybe you hated fighting the traffic and one kid always got carsick. Maybe there was never enough dark meat or the reverse or your veganism wasn’t respected, and one of your uncles was always mean or drunk. There’s craziness in everyone’s family, especially at holiday time. Sometimes it’s our relatives’ craziness and sometimes it’s actually our own.
But this year, none of that is what matters. When everyone’s gathered around the table and asking what you’ve got to be thankful for this year, you can have plenty to say.
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Here’s the context: My grandfather was fond of announcing, with relish, “Don’t just count your blessings. Make your blessings count!”
Struck by Good Fortune
If the world seems too dark these days even to see your blessings, let alone count them, try conducting a personal Appreciative Inquiry. Start by identifying something in every aspect of your life that’s actually working, that’s okay, that’s — dare we say it — good. It might seem small and inconsequential or be something you overlooked until you lost other more spectacular things, but it’s there.
Remind yourself of the good. If you have the wherewithal to be struggling with the idea of gratitude, you can take it as proof of some kind of good fortune, even in the midst of difficulties and what feels like bad luck. So recognize the good things you’re experiencing today, even if it’s not a particularly good day, and the good things you’ve had the luck to enjoy in the past.
Identifying everything and anything that’s good in your life is what counting your blessings is all about.
Making Blessings Count
Once you’ve identified all the good in your life now and in the past, find a way to make those blessings count. Take the next step in Appreciative Inquiry and think about what else could be good. Look for what could be a potential extension or outcome of what’s good now.
You might be savoring a delicious bite of pie and, in the midst of your pleasure, decide to save a slice to share with your neighbor down the block who loves just this kind of thing. You might be soaking up the satisfaction of being with a friend or relative you haven’t seen for a while, and realize that you could actually tell them how you feel and make them happy too.
You might be feeling wholly grateful for a moment of peace in the midst of hardship, and promise yourself that you’ll look for other moments like this during the coming week, and use them as steppingstones to get you across a pond of difficulty.
If you can make just one blessing count, then that’s your Thanksgiving, right there — with or without pie.