What does it mean to be thankful? When I think about the things that I am thankful for, they all seem to revolve around what separates me from others either by individuality or circumstance.
I am thankful that I have enough–enough food, shelter, clothing. I am thankful that I and the people I care about are relatively healthy and safe. I am thankful that we are not spending the holidays in a hospital or a war zone. I am thankful that I am me, with my thoughts and abilities.
My thankfulness is exclusionary. I am happy that I am not others, that I do not have less, that I am not amidst jeopardy. If I found myself in better circumstances, I don’t think my thankfulness would shift much. I don’t imagine it would change much if my life took a moderate turn downward either. I will always be glad that things are no worse than they are, but that seems a rather dull form of thankfulness.
I think a more vibrant version of thankfulness may be hiding in the giving part of Thanksgiving.
We know that giving makes us happier than receiving. We know that money only brings happiness when it buys security and experiences and that even then it only satisfies to a certain point. So why are we reluctant to give?
Mostly because what’s going on in their heads. Most people could be more generous. They think they don’t have the money or the time but they could be more generous. I think people are afraid. They don’t realize that it’s good for them, that it would benefit them and not just other people. They’re afraid that it would be a loss. That if they gave money away or devoted their time, they would be losing something. So part of it is just ignorance, part of it is fear and insecurity.
-Christian Smith, Science of Genorosity
I think we need a new paradigm for thankfulness. We should not be glad for what we have that others do not, but for what we have the ability to share with others.
Today is Thanksgiving. I am thankful that I can share knowledge, joy, empathy, compassion, and kindness. I am thankful that I can give both my time and resources to individuals and organizations that are making a positive difference in the world. I am thankful that I have an opportunity to be more generous of spirit and action in the upcoming year.
What will you build–a new table or a new fence?