Preparing to write this piece, I decided to research thankfulness, gratitude, gratefulness – you know – the stuff we talk about as we stuff turkey down our throats every November.
Technically, the holiday is called Thanksgiving. To some people, it is simply a day to be grateful for what we have in this life.
Gratitude is pretty trendy right now. People have journals, jewelry and even cute little wooden wall hangings expressing their deep, abiding sense of appreciation for … everything.
Curious, I Googled “gratitude and thanksgiving,” looking for a little inspiration. What I found was a lot of debate about the meaning of these words so many of us use interchangeably.
Let’s see. “Gratitude,” according to one article, is to appreciate another person’s actions. “Giving thanks” is simply acknowledging that someone did something nice, by saying, “Thanks.” Another article says you can be grateful without giving thanks, but you cannot give thanks without being grateful.
So was I.
My quest to better understand gratitude and thanksgiving only made the whole thing more confusing. But, if I follow the general gist of these two differing takes on the concept of appreciating life and the people in it, each one suggests it is not merely enough to think, “Gee, I’m grateful (or thankful) for Aunt Barb’s pumpkin pie.” You must really show Aunt Barb how you feel, by devouring said pie.
Okay, this makes some sense. If I am grateful for my health, that means I should show it by taking good care of my body.
What these authors were trying to say is that being in a state of thankfulness is not the same as giving thanks.
I love the concept, and I agree. There are plenty of things I say I am grateful for, but you would hardly know it by my actions. I say, “Thank God that cop let me skate without a speeding ticket,” but my lead foot hits the gas as soon as he is out of sight. I say I am thankful for my family, but do I always pick up the phone when they call?
How many other things have I expressed gratitude for that I really, in truth, take for granted? Whether you are thankful or grateful or a little of both, do you live it? Or do you just think it?
It is easy to sit around the family dinner table at Thanksgiving and pontificate about what I am grateful for when it’s my turn. Who doesn’t feel just a little appreciative with a full belly and an array of desserts from which to choose?
What am I doing every day to live in a state of gratitude or thanksgiving? I guess I can always start by not complaining, and by enjoying what I already have.
As one internet quote puts it, “If you’re not happy with what you’ve got, what makes you think you’ll be happy with the things you want?”
Be grateful. Be thankful.
Pass the pie.