Rethinking Thankfulness: Gratitude Keeps Thankfulness Going

Several months ago when I made the decision to write about thankfulness this week before Thanksgiving, our world looked substantially different… we had not seen the horrific attacks on Paris, nor had we become entrenched as a nation in the debate over Syrian refugees. Thankfulness somehow seems more urgent today.

I’ve done a small amount of reading about being thankful, and the idea that has stayed with me is that thankfulness is passive; I can be thankful for something, have the thought or realization that I am indeed thankful, and then allow the moment to pass. Gratitude is thankfulness in action. I had never considered this; so why write about this at all? Because I now see thankfulness as half of the equation. I can keep my thankfulness to myself in a journal, or consider the myriad of blessings that I enjoy, yet gratitude is where the thankfulness rubber meets the road.

I was having lunch with a good friend the other day, and she is very involved with a non-profit organization here in Nashville that helps refugees find housing, obtain jobs, get their children into schools, and assist in many day-to-day activities that I take for granted. So why does she choose to spend her time this way? It is thankfulness in action… she is grateful that she has been given countless opportunities to live a good life. She didn’t grow up in a situation that many of us would deem ideal… family dysfunction, limited opportunities and limited emotional support. She has been tenacious over the years, and through hard work and the many twists and turns of life, has found herself living a wonderfully full and comfortable life. She could have easily stopped here, yet she chose to put her thankfulness into action with gratitude. Her gratitude has touched the lives of hundreds of people who are in great need, and in turn, I would venture to imagine that many of these refugees are thankful as well. My friend has demonstrated thankfulness in action, or gratitude.

So in this time of giving thanks, I am challenging myself to look at my life, and the greater world events in a new way. If I were to look back upon my family history, I would know that in a sense, I too am a refugee, and I am thankful for those who came before me, allowing my ancestors to become citizens here in the U.S. In what way can I put my thankfulness into action with the current crisis? In what ways will I be able to demonstrate my thankfulness through gratitude?  Perhaps I shall give my friend a call and inquire as to how I can help support her organization.