As I sat pondering Thanksgiving and Christmas, I thought: Christmas is the holiday where we show our appreciation for others through our giving; usually in the form of a gift. Christmas encourages an outward expression of love or gratitude. But Thanksgiving, that’s the day where, yes, we outwardly share a feast, but more so, we are reflecting inwardly, through conversations, on the value that those gathered around us bring to our lives. Thanksgiving’s very nature is about focusing on all that we are thankful and grateful for in our lives. I think it’s fair to say, though, that when we gather together for Thanksgiving or Christmas, we are harnessing within ourselves the deeper aspects of our emotions to take the day beyond the fullness of the dinner table and the gifts under the tree.
When I think of thankfulness, it usually involves an expression of it. We receive a gift and we verbally thank the giver. We are offered a compliment and we write a note to the speaker telling them their impact. I see thankfulness as an expression. I see gratitude as the cause for expressing that thankfulness. A neighbor offers to collect our mail and water our plants while we are away on vacation; we are so grateful for their kindness that to thank them we bring them a small gift from our travels. Perhaps you’re saying – Wait! She just said Thanksgiving was internally focused, but expressions of thankfulness are outwardly focused. Indeed! I did!
In my life’s adventures, I find myself overwhelmed with gratitude! And, while this gratitude serves to overflow my internal cup, as it were, what I find an even deeper appreciation for those blessings, is expressing my thankfulness to the giver, or passing that feeling of gratitude on to the next person. I see gratitude and thankfulness as verbs – action words. Because that is when they affect the collective consciousness and create change within our world.
Let’s say we are extremely grateful for our neighbors’ help in tending to our home while we are away, and we fill our cells with that gratitude; but that is where it stops? That gratitude is really only serving ourselves. But, if we express our gratitude to our neighbor, and then offer to reciprocate those actions for them, or another neighbor in need, then we are changing the very environment that we all live in. And the more we cultivate our gratitude, and build in that sense of giving back, the greater our impact within the world.
How grateful are we talking? Maybe it’s not just about the ‘big’ things; perhaps your gas bill is a few dollars less than you expected it to be. But if we are really focused on our gratitude for this small difference, perhaps we put those few saved dollars into a donation cup. The more aware we are of the continuous blessings being revealed in our life, the more we can act on spreading our gratitude and thankfulness for them forward. Recognizing those blessings is something we can all continually strive to cultivate within ourselves.
I’ve shared before that I keep a gratitude jar throughout the year, where I write down things that I am grateful for. Often I have transformational coaching clients journal before bed, a list of three things that they are grateful for that transpired that day These ideas serve to help us cultivate the mindset of awareness to our gratitude. Ideally, though, these ideas are really just scratching the surface of what a heart continually filled with gratitude is experiencing. A life of gratitude is a continuous cycle of giving and receiving.
We’ve discussed giving and receiving in previous articles, and how receiving is difficult for many as it requires a loss of control. We’ve also discussed how crucial it is to allow yourself to receive so that the cycle of giving and receiving is not disrupted within others and our culture. So, the things that transpire that you are grateful for – those are you receiving; and when you express your thanks, that is you giving. Cycle in motion.
The truth is, whether it’s Christmas, Thanksgiving, or simply Wednesday, they all offer the opportunity for outward sharing and inward reflection. What if we allowed that to live in our hearts all year long? Happy Thanksgiving from my family to yours!