This post was originally published on Nov. 20, 2013, and because I am working on a limited schedule this week, I thought it might be appropriate to dust it off and re-post it for any of my followers who hadn’t caught it the first time around. I hope you enjoy your week, whether or not you’re celebrating Thanksgiving here in the U.S., and be grateful…that you have the capacity to be thankful.
Thanksgiving Day in the U.S. will be here in two days, and everywhere you turn, people are talking, writing, and blogging about all the things they’re thankful for. I, for one, am growing weary of it.
Now, please don’t get me wrong; it’s good to be grateful. Indeed, we should be thankful – and display that thankfulness – every day of our lives. We should reflect upon our blessings on a regular basis and never hesitate to show our appreciation for what we have.
My problem is not so much with the thankfulness; it’s that we’re missing an important reason to be thankful.
The Usual Suspects
Again, please don’t misunderstand me; I’m glad people are thankful for their blessings. But there are certain blessings that show up on nearly everyone’s lists – our faith(s), our families and friends, our lives, our pets, our homes, our talents.
Some people may be thankful their loved ones made it home safely from being abroad; others may be grateful that they received a year-end bonus, or even have a job at all.
Even the poor and destitute among us may be thankful for things like the warmth of the sun or the kindness of a stranger.
I can say honestly that I am truly, truly, TRULY thankful for all these things…but you probably could have guessed that, even if you had never met me or had never even heard of me or this blog.
These are the blessings that most of humanity celebrates – and the acknowledgement that we should be grateful for these things is rooted in the love, compassion, and empathy that separates our species from the rest of the animal kingdom.
We recognize the importance of both gratitude and thankfulness.
A quick vocabulary lesson
Gratitude and thankfulness are not necessarily interchangeable.
I’m no lexicographer or linguist, but it has always been my understanding that these words had different meanings. To be thankful means you’re appreciative that something that you wanted came about; to be grateful indicates you are appreciative towards someone or something.
(Any English professors in the house? Please correct me if I’m wrong!)
The reason it’s important to know the difference is because gratitude is directional; thankfulness is not. Feed a hungry animal and it may be thankful it received food, but it might not be grateful toward you for feeding it. I know pet owners will disagree with that – having two dogs and two cats of my own, I’ll admit that some animals probably are grateful to the person taking care of them – but how many of these animals understand what it means to be grateful or thankful?
And therein lies the rationale for my previous statement that our recognition of the importance of both gratitude and thankfulness is one of the important qualities that elevates us above the rest of the animal kingdom.
Little blessings, and the BIG one
As I ponder this, I come to the conclusion that the human condition of feeling gratitude, thankfulness, and appreciation is itself a blessing.
Yes, I’m thankful for all those things we talked about earlier. I’m thankful for my family, our friends, and our pets. I’m thankful I live in a country that promotes freedom of speech, religion, and personal excellence. I’m grateful to God and Jesus for their love and sacrifices; I’m grateful to my wife and family for supporting me as a self-employed stay-at-home dad; I’m grateful to Al Gore for creating the internet.
(I’m also thankful - or grateful – to whomever or whatever was responsible for getting my 2-year-old to finally stop waking up at 5am…daylight savings time really screwed up the poor little dude’s internal clock for a couple of weeks!)
But I don’t want to overlook this very important aspect of our humanity; that is, the recognition of the importance of gratitude and thankfulness.
Thankful…for being thankful?
Yes, that is basically what I’m saying. Chuckle if you’d like. However, when you actually think about what it means to be thankful for having the comprehension of what gratitude, appreciation, or even indebtedness mean…I hope you will understand why I believe it is so important.
We humans are not simply grateful, or thankful. We comprehend – and celebrate – the importance of being grateful or thankful.
So this Thanksgiving Day, while we’re giving thanks for all we have, think about why you are thankful.
Think about why you are grateful.
And give thanks that you are.
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