“Thoughts do more. Words to much. Actions do much more.” ― Israelmore Ayivor
Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It is simple really: no big buildup (unlike Christmas), low expectations (no gifts expected or anticipated), lots of comfort food (plus leftovers for days), and little to no controversy (unless you get into an argument over silly things like football and shopping). However, the most important reason Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday is the word itself.
The word “thanksgiving” dates back to the 1530s and is formed by combining the noun ‘thanks’ — taken from the Old English ‘þanc’ — meaning ‘grateful thought’, and the present participle of the verb ‘give’. This is from the Old English ‘giefan’ meaning ‘to bestow or grant’.
“To bestow or grant grateful thought.”
My understanding of this word has changed significantly in recovery. I used to think the primary recipient of grateful thought was other people. I have always been a person who says, “Thank you”, and most of the time, “Please”. My grandmothers and my parents made sure of that. It is true that what you are trained in never really leaves you. The habit of saying those words has followed me throughout my life. But saying “thanks” or “thank you” is not necessarily being grateful. The habit of saying thank you is not an act of bestowing grateful thought. It is nice. It is polite. It is not thanksgiving.
Step 10 of the 12 Steps of Recovery says, “Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.” I started out thinking this was only about finding my faults. Inventorying my misdeeds. It is much more than that. It is about acknowledging everything in my life and asking whether I handled it in harmony with who I want to be. In the Big Book, the chapter on Step 10 goes on to say, “A honest regret for harms done, a genuine gratitude for blessings received, and a willingness to try for better things tomorrow will be the permanent assets we shall seek. Having so considered our day, not omitting to take due note of things well done, and having searched our hearts with neither fear nor favor, we can truly thank God for the blessings we have received and sleep in good conscience.”
True thanksgiving begins with the gift of grateful thought we give ourselves. I must daily observe and acknowledge “blessings received” and be truly mindful of them. This is not a flippant “I have been blessed” thrown out from time to time, but rather a deeply impactful realization that I am given so much by so many and must in turn give too.
Psalm 100 says,
“Shout with joy to the Lord, all the earth! Worship the Lord with gladness. Come before him, singing with joy. Acknowledge that the Lord is God! He made us, and we are his. We are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving; go into his courts with praise. Give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good. His unfailing love continues forever, and his faithfulness continues to each generation.”
My daily inventory includes all that I am grateful for and an evaluation of my response. Am I intentionally grateful? Am I acknowledging God’s goodness and giving thanks, even when circumstances are difficult? Am I giving as I have received? Am I giving what I wish to receive? Do those who have blessed me know it? Better, do they feel it?
There are so many ways we can act out gratefulness. Traditional philanthropy is certainly one, but there are so many others that enrich our lives and truly make a difference in other people’s.
I can mentor others. You may be thinking that you are not old enough, wise enough or smart enough to mentor someone. Mentoring is not about being the master to a pupil, but rather being someone who is good company on the road because of having already travelled it. Wherever you are on the road of life, there are plenty of people behind you that could use someone to walk with.
I can volunteer my time and talents to help others who need a hand. Time is our most valuable possession and makes us all equals. No one has more of it than another. So, our gift of our time is infinitely precious due to the finite nature of the resource. There are so many places that need hands connected to hearts, you should have no trouble finding something that matches your passion.
I can invest in the people I am closest to in ways that improve their lives. So often we are focused on work, activities, hobbies, and the general busyness of life and we miss the opportunities to impact those who are around us every day; our family, our friends, and our co-workers. Sometimes it is an encouraging word, a shoulder, a challenge or a blessing that can change the course of a life. You don’t have to be eloquent, intellectual or witty. You just have to be willing and observant.
It is my prayer that you will have a safe and wonderful holiday full of food, fellowship and fun. I hope you take some time this season to reflect on how blessed you are and then choose to give as you have received.
If we can give ourselves the gift of grateful thought, we can begin to bestow on others the resulting actions of a grateful heart. That’s what “Thanksgiving” means, and that’s the Kimray Way.
P.S. If you don’t have anyone to spend Thanksgiving with, or anywhere to spend it, come to my house. There will be plenty of food, lots of gratefulness and hopefully not too many arguments.