As a kid growing up I clearly remember Thanksgiving at our house. It included my grandfather, mom and dad, sister, several aunts and uncles, and cousins. As I think back on it, it still amazes me how we were all able to fit into that little house, but we did. The grownups elbow-to-elbow in the dining room and us kids in the kitchen – but definitely not out of sight, earshot, or the minds of our parents.
We had a tradition in our family – as many families do – that at an appropriate time during the meal we’d go around the table with each of us sharing what we were most thankful for. Although we resisted, us kids were included and we participated, however unenthusiastically.
Years later, with children in our home, we perpetuated the tradition.
Our world is different today. Families are spread all over the place. My wife Sandy and I are in New York for Thanksgiving – grateful that a nephew and his family from Ohio will be joining us.
However, our children (now adults) and closest family members are scattered in Florida, Missouri, Ohio, and Oklahoma. So the thought of us sitting around a table is not only extremely remote, but impossible. Of course we’ll phone them and chat for a few minutes. But somehow it’s not the same.
But I learned a lesson through that Thanksgiving Day tradition – that is, how important it is to be thankful not only when we’re together as a family for a special occasion like Thanksgiving, but every day.
So I do exactly that. When I’m walking around New York City, working with a client, or having a phone conversation with my old boating buddy in Florida, I feel the gratitude for all that I have… especially the people in my life.
It takes little more than a split second to think about something that happened yesterday or today or even years ago and to feel the gratitude. And throughout the years I’ve learned that while verbally expressing gratitude to those we love is good, feeling it deep inside is even better.
An old friend used to remind me how important gratitude is. Whenever I’d complain about anything, she’d immediately ask, “Yes, but what are you grateful for today?” And she kept pushing until she heard something other than a complaint.
Interestingly, throughout the years I’ve learned that gratitude is the key that opens the door to everything, including a bunch more to be grateful for.
Today I’m grateful that we’ll have a chance to see three out of our four children, two grandkids, and a nephew and his family in Florida for the Christmas holidays. I sense it’ll be extremely crowded around that dinner table, but I’m not complaining. As a matter of fact, I’m already feeling grateful for exactly how crowded that table will be!