Last week as I stared out the windows of the Minneapolis airport watching the snow fall and the ground crew struggle with luggage in the frigid temperatures, I thought about how thankful I should be for those outside helping me get to my destination. Thus began my weeklong experiment in finding gratitude in all things.
It’s a fitting time as we celebrate Thanksgiving week. Yes, Thanksgiving WEEK. This uniquely American holiday is deserving of more than just a brief twenty-four hours before we head pell-mell into the Christmas shopping season (that’s a column for another day). I’m not suggesting that anyone spend more than one afternoon a year watching the Detroit Lions, or adding gelatinous canned cranberry to their diet, but we can be thankful for a full week. For a humorous take on why Thanksgiving is a week worthy holiday, visit Chronicles of Dad, the creative writing outlet for a friend of mine.
Before going farther, I know what some of you are thinking… “Finding gratitude in everything” sounds like new age mumbo jumbo. I’ve been given this same challenge for the past year and often felt the same reaction. Hence the week long experiment. Could I do it? I promise, I felt better for it, and you will too.
Finding gratitude in everything is a challenge, particularly while traveling around the country. Sometimes it’s easy – airports are great places to see people at their best – the young man waiting at Arrivals for his soldier wife to return home and the embraces that follow. Who doesn’t get a smile on their face in circumstances like that; appreciating the service of the soldier, and being thankful they have a spouse who supports them in their service. Airports can also bring out our worst, but I’m viewing my one hour delay as creating an opportunity to write this column so I can thankfully sleep on the plane. Sometimes it takes some creativity. For instance, while I flew from Phoenix to Washington DC, my luggage flew to Philadelphia. It is all too easy to be angry rather than pause and be thankful for the friendly Delta employee who tracked it down, or the driver who delivered it at 3am so I’d have clean clothes the next day. The noisy toddler across the aisle made me grateful his mother had one of those leash/vest things on him so at least he couldn’t roam around spreading his cheer – though I admit to having a momentary gleeful desire to help him slip his leash just to see what would happen.
Be thankful that despite the challenges our country faces, it is still the single best hope for the world. When in Richmond last week I asked the Uber (something else I’m thankful for) driver to tell me his story. He came to America from Mongolia “for opportunity” because “everyone wants to come to America for a chance to live a better life.” He won his visa, his opportunity, in a lottery for which he and his family waited over a year. His story made me grateful to have won my lottery at birth.
I know many of you expressed thanks when the Senate campaign ended for no more television commercials. More than $41 Million was spent on television advertising in Iowa. Before you complain, try finding gratitude that your vote is worth the $70 spent trying to convince you. That is surely better than having no choice.
As families gathered around the Thanksgiving table Thursday, I predict that a parent instructed everyone to offer up something they were thankful for, and when it came back around the table mom or dad pronounced their thanks for having the whole family together for dinner which elicited a groan from their children that such a response was cheating. I hope they told their children how many families don’t have such an opportunity – a loved one is away serving in the military, a mom is cleaning a hotel room, a dad is driving a cab, somewhere a family is huddled in a hospital. They truly should be thankful for the blessing of being together.
It’s easy to find gratitude for things in life that bring you joy, make your life easier, or worthwhile. I’m so grateful for my wife Trudy, who puts up with my nonsense and has made it possible for me to follow my dreams. I’m thankful that my daughters are not just smart and lovely, but are empathetic and kind. We all have such things where finding gratitude is easy. But take this challenge and try to find that same gratitude in the inconveniences of life. It’s a worthwhile experiment as it will make you even more appreciative of those things and people for which you are already thankful.