We are approaching my favorite holiday—Thanksgiving. In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a National Thanksgiving Day to be held each November. However, the first Thanksgiving celebration happened 242 years earlier.

One hundred and two passengers left Plymouth, England, in 1620 on a small ship named the Mayflower. Their destination was the New World, where they hoped to find religious freedom, prosperity, and land ownership. Sixty-six uncomfortable and dangerous days later, they landed near the tip of Cape Cod, far north of where they intended. A month later they crossed Massachusetts Bay and the Pilgrims, as they are commonly known today, began the difficult work of establishing a home at Plymouth.

Only half of the colonists survived the first winter. That spring, they were befriended by the Wampanoag, a local tribe, thanks to the help of Squanto who learned English as a slave before escaping and returning to his homeland. The Indians taught the Pilgrims, weakened by malnutrition and illness, how to cultivate corn, extract sap from maple trees, catch fish in the rivers, and avoid poisonous plants.

In November, after a successful corn harvest, Governor William Bradford organized a celebration that lasted three days and invited their Wampanoag friends to participate. While the fare was quite different from what we eat today, the sentiment was the same—gratefulness for the blessings they had been given.

It is not always easy to be thankful. Life can be difficult and painful. We often have unmet needs or desires. Sometimes we just aren’t “feeling it.” I can imagine for the Pilgrims that first Thanksgiving was bittersweet. They had managed to grow and harvest food and learned how to survive in their new homeland, but it came at a great cost. Not a single family had survived intact. Even with their recent successes, the future would be difficult and uncertain. Yet in the face of their grief and hardships, they made the choice to give thanks and celebrate what was good in their lives and in their community.

While not nearly as significant as the Pilgrims’ history, Kimray has recently come out of a hard “winter” that saw lean times and loss in our business. We leaned heavily on our community and learned new skills that not only helped us through this difficult time, but will also continue to help us bring in the “harvest.” Like the Pilgrims, I find myself overcome with gratitude for the blessings God has poured out on us.

Gratefulness is a wonderful practice to cultivate in our lives. We cannot control most of the things around us, but we can choose to manage our attitude. When we find and acknowledge the good in our lives, it helps us to recognize more good things. This creates a positive feedback loop that continues to improve the way we view our present circumstances.

The more often I do this, the more I am training my mind to see the positives. Having a positive outlook doesn’t mean that bad things aren’t happening to me or that life isn’t difficult. It just means that when life is hard, I am better able to handle it.

This Thanksgiving, take time to name the things for which you are grateful. You may find that you have more to say thanks for than you imagined.

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