In the summer of 2012, I got an email invitation from my sister, Wini. The invitation was for me, my four sisters and our families, to come to her house in New Hampshire for Thanksgiving, not that year but in two years.
With the five of us living all over the country, it had been at least fifteen years since we last spent Thanksgiving all together as a family.
So a few weeks ago, when my mother in law asked us to be with them for the holiday this year, naturally I said we couldn’t. Hesitating before responding to her, I felt guilty over the fact that the past two Thanksgivings we’d spent with my mom at her house in Nantucket after my dad died.
It didn’t matter though. My sister’s invitation trumped my mother in law’s given the invite’s chronological order. To make my mother in law and myself feel better, I told her let’s plan on being together for Thanksgiving next year. Perfect solution, I thought.
Thanksgiving is probably my favorite holiday. There’s an element of humble gratitude that comes with preparing a feast to share with everyone. No gifts. Just celebrating togetherness while eating lots of delicious food. Being in the kitchen chopping, cooking, creating, tasting, and smelling all the flavors while sharing love feeds my soul.
A long time ago, my dad started a Thanksgiving tradition with our family. Immediately after sitting down to dinner and saying grace, he insisted that we go around the table and share what we were thankful for that year.
So, yesterday as we gathered together on Thanksgiving in New Hampshire, my dad hovering around us (even though we couldn’t see him), my sister carried on the tradition. Only this time, given that there were sixteen of us, she decided that we would just share one word – one word or thing we were grateful for.
Picking just one word seemed challenging, but she gave us fair warning by telling us about it in the morning. As the day went on, many thoughts crossed my mind, and the one word that seemed to sum up everything was love.
That evening when time came to go around the room and share, people started to check each other out as if to try and jump into their thoughts, validate their answer or find a better one. Only one person was visibly confident and ready to share. So we started with him. It was the youngest person in the room, my 10 year old nephew, JW (named after our father).
Without hesitation he smiled as he looked around at all of us in the room, and then JW said with a loud clear voice, “everything!” Laughter erupted as we all realized the profoundness of it’s simplicity.
Taking pause, unplugging and spending time being present with family and friends, Thanksgiving is a glorious day to celebrate gratitude.
Day to day, there is always something to be grateful for. The hard part is focusing our energy on gratitude regularly instead of getting caught up in what’s not done yet or not working. Find things to be grateful every day. Spend ten minutes at the end of every day writing down what was good about your day and what you feel grateful for….you may just surprise yourself in how it shifts your perspective.