The Meaning of Thankfulness

With Thanksgiving right around the corner, there’s the prevalent question, “What does it mean to be thankful?” Defining words include gratitude, appreciation, acknowledgment, recognition, approval, positive reception, admiration, enjoyment, pleasure, and praise. These terms can get lost in daily living and never be more than a passing thought. How do we live thankful lives every day?

Inconveniences, accidents, social upsets, disappointments, sickness and negativity can cause a tarnish to appear on our polished show of joy. So, what’s the deal? Are we meant to live in a constant state of thankfulness? I propose that finding gladness in our everyday lives is indeed uplifting and healthy. According to an article, “The Psychological Benefits Of Saying Grace” in The Huffington Post by Carolyn Gregoire, “Taking time for gratitude, just once a day, makes us happy and healthy. Giving thanks just once a day — maybe at the dinner table, or maybe before bed — for a couple weeks can improve physical and psychological well-being.

Gratitude’s value is intrinsic, but its health benefits are also many. Those who take time to be grateful may enjoy improved sleep, lower stress levels, enhanced overall well-being and even improved heart health. Practicing gratitude has also been linked with stronger personal relationships, higher self-esteem and greater life satisfaction.”

But how can that be accomplished when life just doesn’t cooperate? It’s all about choice. Scenario 1 – Sally gets up and says to herself, “This is a glorious morning! It’s clear and the sun is shining, it’s Saturday and I have the whole day to use as I please.” An hour later, Sally has had two cups of coffee, a delicious breakfast and she’s ready to go to the gym to work out. Just as she steps into her car, she notices a flat tire. Choice: Will Sally become angry, overwhelmed, or take it in stride and call Triple A?

Scenario 2 – Joe gets up, his back is aching and he’s out of coffee. He notices that it’s a beautiful day and decides to stretch out with a short walk to Starbucks. An hour later, he’s had breakfast, hot tea, and read the morning paper. He heads home and on the way, trips and sprains his ankle. Choice: Will Joe curse, use his cell phone to call a friend to help him, hobble home without help or become despondent?

Scenario 3 – Carol and Sam have planned a Saturday to clean the yard. It looks like the weather is going to be perfect to work outside. Carol makes a light breakfast and they enjoy planning how they will attack the chores. Carol will do some weeding; Sam will mow the lawn; they will both put some mulch in the flower beds. All is going well, until Sam hears a scream coming from Carol’s direction. He sees her doing what can only be a Bee Sting dance! He stops immediately, hoses her down to deflect the bees and notices she has over 20 red, swelling stings. He grabs his keys and puts her in the car and takes her to the closest clinic where they can administer Benadryl. Carol is going to be okay. Choice: Will Carol and Sam be thankful that she is going to recover or both are upset that their well-planned day has been ruined or find a way to blame the circumstances on one another?

How would you react in each of these situations? If you don’t like your answer, there’s time to choose another.