The turkey is roasting, the potatoes are peeled, the casseroles are waiting to be put in the oven. I have about 35 minutes before the kids arrive, just enough time to reflect on what this day really means to me.
Thanksgiving. It means a lot more to me today than it used to.
When you’re little your parents teach you to say please and thank you, indicating that you appreciate the nice gestures of others. I taught my children the same thing. “What do you say?” I coached as they smiled sweetly and said thank you.
I like to think that they understood why they needed to be polite, but I think they just liked the positive reinforcement they received. (my psychology minor, thank you very much.) I don’t think children are capable of understanding what gratitude really is. It can only be after years of life-induced lessons that it can finally be realized.
I remember when my daughter Holly was 11. She wanted a pair of tennis shoes that were popular at that time. “Be grateful for what you have, others have less,” I told her, not wanting to rehash the same old lecture of how I couldn’t afford it. She just looked at me with a sad face, but I knew how much she wanted those shoes. A few weeks later, I had scraped up enough money to buy them for her. She was surprised when I put the box on her bed. “An early birthday present,” I said as I started to walk out the door.
She opened the box, but the look on her face told me that she already knew what was inside. “Oh Mommy! Thank you, thank you!” she yelled as she ran and threw her arms around me. “You have no idea how much I wanted these!”
“Oh, I think I do,” I told her as I hugged her back.
What I was able to do for her that day was more than just giving her something she wanted. Though I don’t think she realized it at the time, it was a lesson in gratitude. She knew I couldn’t afford the shoes. I bought them because I remembered how I felt when I really wanted something but my parents wouldn’t buy it for me.
Fifteen years later, Holly still reminds me of how much those shoes meant to her. “I can’t believe how selfish I was,” she told me. “But you knew I really wanted them. Thanks, Mom.”
Being grateful isn’t something that occurs one day a year. It’s about being able to appreciate the little things in life. Family, friends, a baby’s first laugh, a sunset, a flower, a beautiful day, even a pair of shoes; these are things that we sometimes take for granted. Being able to appreciate these things is what I am most grateful for…everyday.