Good Grief, Charlie Brown
What Kind Of Question Is That?
Every Thanksgiving I'm reminded of a friend from childhood. She was very much a loner and I didn't get to know her right away. About mid-way through the 3rd grade, we were paired together for a project and began to talk.
She was not like anyone I had ever met. Her religion was very different from mine. In fact, as a child, I had never heard of anything like it before. Her ethnicity and cultural background were different, too. But she seemed nice and we got along well despite our differences.
We worked our way through the project and continued to be friends throughout elementary, middle, and high school. Through the years, we would often talk about the holidays each of us celebrated, although they rarely coincided. She seemed particularly interested in Thanksgiving even though she and her family didn't participate.
She was enjoying her favorite meal at lunch one day when she asked me a most perplexing question, "What is your meaning behind Thanksgiving?"
It hit me in a really odd way.
I knew the traditional story about the Pilgrims and Native Americans sharing a meal. But somehow that didn't seem like an appropriate answer to her question.
She asked what was my meaning behind this holiday. I'd never had to define it in words before, and it really made me think. Fortunately, the bell rang before I had to answer which bought me extra time to think about it.
She was the persistent type and could see I was squirming so I knew she would be waiting for me after class, eager to hear what I had to say. So while the teacher droned on about calculus, I genuinely tried to nail down a good answer but came to a realization.
Thanksgiving should only ever be about gratitude - quite a profound epiphany for a teenager! I love the food (a little too much) and getting together with family is one of the best parts. But taking stock and being grateful for that and all the abundance in my life is what it should all be about.
And that's stuck with me through the years.
It would be virtually impossible to name all the things I'm grateful for because there are too many. That may come across as boastful, but if you take an honest look at your life, I bet you'll come to realize you feel the same way.
Of course bad stuff happens and things don't always go the way we expect or want. Unfortunately that's what gets the most airtime which makes it seem worse than it has to be. But most of our lives have more that's going right than wrong.
Thanksgiving is a kind of reset to remind us to change our focus.
If you practice turning your attention toward the good things more often, you'll see more of them.
It's not that there's an increase in good things, but that you can only see what you focus on.
And that's the magic of perspective. The same situation will look different from various angles.
You can't always choose your circumstances, but you can always choose your perspective.
I was very fortunate that day in the lunchroom to have been asked such a simple but profound question.
It changed the way I looked at Thanksgiving from that point forward and will hopefully help you remember to slow down and enjoy all the good in your life as well.
So as we prepare for Thanksgiving this year, it will no doubt look different than it ever has before. Still in the grips of COVID, traditional plans may be altered or even cancelled, but we can still find reasons to be thankful.
Alter your focus and start looking at all the good in your life. Then start giving it the attention it deserves. Before you know it, it'll start to feel like Thanksgiving every day - and that's not "Peanuts"!
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