The Thanksgiving Story
Once upon a time, a group people from the United Kingdom decided leave home and search for a new place where they could be free in their beliefs.
They sailed across the ocean to a new land that was recently discovered by Christopher Columbus.
When they arrived they were not prepared for the wilderness that they would face.
Death and hunger quickly visited the intrepid explorers.
But in the depths of winter as they were running out of food, the explorers were visited by a local group of natives. These people had seen the pain and suffering of the colonists and were coming to help.
They provided food and knowledge, teaching the colonists how to cultivate their own food and how to survive in this new world.
When spring arrived, the colonists were able to change the course of history and to grow their own food and restart their own lives in the new world. In the fall, after the harvest, grateful for their new bounty, the colonists invited their new friends to share in the abundance they had created.
For one brief moment, people of different colors, creeds, and religions celebrated together in thanks for everything they had.
The Idealized Story
I’m sure my brief and fairly idealized telling of the Thanksgiving story can give heartburn to quite a few readers. To start, my Thanksgiving dinner image has only Pilgrims and no Native Americans!! In fact, there are lots of historical injustices and facts that are simply glossed over in this take. But let’s stop for a moment and consider why we tell each other this (and others like it) story.
We tell each other this story because it keeps us hoping that we are better and, despite being fallible, we are capable of creating a wonderful and harmonious life for all. Even if while telling the story it’s more like looking through a foggy window than clear glass.
We tell each other this because we want to believe that good exists in the world and that it is not just dog-eat-dog, as we so often observe on a daily basis.
So in the spirit of our hopes, not the reality that we want to focus on… in the spirit of what’s good, not the evil that is always present… and in the spirit of levity of human spirit, let’s discuss what we might be able to learn from this idealized story.
Reflect on What You Have
The first lesson we can take away from this story is the lesson of thankfulness.We should all be a little more grateful for what we have and a little less yearning for where want to be. In fact, science has actually proven that the happiest people are the ones who are most content with the life they already have.
To be clear, “content” does not mean that we are not striving to achieve and to grow. We are! But we are simply choosing to focus on what we have and ignore the distraction of our wants – if even for a moment. What you have today is the starting point for all you will be one day!
So in the spirit of Thanksgiving, ask yourself:
- Are you healthy? If so, you are already rich.
- Do you have a home? Rented, owned, shared, squatted… it doesn’t matter! You are safer today than the overwhelming majority of your ancestors.
- Did you have something eat? Sure it may not be organic, locally grown or even perfectly shaped, but having food makes you wealthy in historical comparison.
- Do you know how to read? Widespread reading is a little-celebrated achievement of the 20th century. But reading has opened the minds of millions of people around the world.
- Did you go to school? Just like reading opens up your mind, school teaches you to explore possibilities through focus and hard work.
Do you want more? Want to be better? Of course you do. But everything starts here and now with what you have. So be grateful and enjoy what you have now.
Be Grateful for Those in Your life
We have an evolutionary need to be with others. This need has driven us to form groups, tribes, societies, etc. But fundamentally what you crave is the close connection to one or two people who really know and understand you. At your core, what you want is lasting long term companionship. So think to yourself:
- Do you have a partner? If so, then you have at least one person who cares for you. Tell them how much they mean to you.
- Do you have parents? Grandparents? As we get older, we leave the protective shell of our parents/grandparents, but we never forget the path they showed us.
- Do you have children? Hug them, because they are your future and they need you now more than ever.
Let Thanksgiving be the day you let go of the minor annoyances and you focus on the good that these people bring into your life.
Use this moment of thanks to carefully consider your life
To be thankful is to be happy. And happiness is rare. This is why Thanksgiving is a great time to think and assess your life. As you consider the things that make you grateful, think about what would make you more grateful in one year. Challenge yourself to become this.
We all strive to be better, stronger, faster! But we also are often caught up in the moment, influenced by others and lost in what truly matters to us. Start now to become the best person you can be.
Hang Onto It All As Long As You Can
Monday is coming, and it is a day when the rush of life, the pressure of Christmas, and troubles of all kinds will come flooding back in. Hang on to this feeling of gratefulness and warmth. You will be a stronger, healthier and happier person for it.