Thanksgiving looks a little different for everybody, doesn’t it? Maybe you get up early to see your favorite floats on the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Maybe you eat a simple meal with immediate family, or an expansive potluck spread with a large gathering of friends and neighbors. Maybe it calls for intermittent napping during an afternoon of football games. Maybe you wear your favorite sweater, and reminisce under dim lamplight, and go to bed early so you have energy for Black Friday shopping.
Or perhaps your holiday doesn’t so closely resemble the ones in the commercials. Maybe you’re alone. Maybe you’re caught in the crossfire of family estrangement. Maybe Thanksgiving is just another day off of work or school, and you don’t have any special plans. Maybe the money, or the time, or the people just aren’t there to warrant any feasting. Maybe all the celebration is, to you, a stressful nightmare you must fake your way through. Maybe the faces that used to make this day meaningful are no longer around your dining room table.
At TWLOHA, whenever a significant holiday rolls around (and for our supporters in the United States, this is usually considered a significant one), we want to remember and include those whose struggles might trump the warmth of tradition. The truth is, this is the case for a great number of people, and it’s important to acknowledge those experiences. But while our observances of Thanksgiving may vary greatly, there is something that unites us today—and that is our very need to give and receive thanks.
Recently, I watched a short TED Talk from a few years ago by a counselor named Laura Trice. In it, she talks about how vital it is to hear and give praise—and yet, people are often very hesitant to ask for it. She says that, sometimes, the most authentic way to express gratitude is to ask people what kind of praise they need to hear, as well as to tell others the areas in which we need more affirmation. This goes against our instincts, right? It’s a challenge in vulnerability. But Trice suggests, “Be honest about the praise that you need to hear. What do you need to hear? … Go home and ask those questions, and then help the people around you.”
Everybody deserves to be both a recipient and a giver of these simple words: “Thank you.”
Whatever your circumstances are today, you can get that cycle of gratitude going in your own life. It doesn’t have to be a holiday; it doesn’t have to take place around an autumnal centerpiece; it doesn’t have to be perfect. Just start saying thank you. For the roof over your head, and the shoes on your feet, and the food on your plate—say thank you. For the counsel you’ve received from a co-worker, a spouse, a therapist—say thank you. For the things people are simply expected to do, day after day, and do well anyway—say thank you. For the phone or the computer you are reading this on—say thank you. For the long-distance friend who somehow always knows when to text you—say thank you. For the book that changed your life, and the pet that is always excited to see you, and the tutoring session from the classmate who owed you nothing, and the unexpected dollars in the tip jar, and the parent who is trying their absolute hardest, and the stranger who said, “No, after you,” and the sun that somehow, no matter what, slowly and gently wakes the world up each morning—say thank you.
Say thank you.
And then, see how that starts coming back around to you—and maybe ask for it from time to time. Don’t be afraid to say, “I’m doing my best here. Did you notice? I’m growing, I’m trying, I’m moving forward—and I’d love your encouragement along the way.”
If you’ve gotten this far into this blog post, we’d also like to say thank you. Thanks for supporting TWLOHA and believing that people can be more, can get better, can work together. We’re grateful you’re a part of this community we talk so much about. And happy thanks-giving.