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Thankful for the opportunity to give thanks

“When asked if my cup is half-full or half-empty my only response is that I am thankful I have a cup.”  – Sam Lefkowitz

On Thursday millions of Americans will sit down for a Thanksgiving meal. It is a day to “give thanks” for all that we have.

So on this uniquely American holiday, rooted in the founding of our nation, let us celebrate with grateful hearts. Work or play, there’s a variety of things Americans will be doing this Thanksgiving holiday.

More than 49 million turkeys will be consumed. Children will wake up early to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade or to help mom in the kitchen – help being a relative term, of course. Families will take a stroll around the neighborhood after their feast to walk off their overindulgence. Naps will abound.

The unfortunate ones who must work today can find solace in the fact that they have work.

On Thursday, when the meal is done and the dishes are piled in the sink, give thanks for the food that contributed to that mess. When stressed by the traffic en route to visit loved ones, be grateful for having the means to travel.

Above all, have an attitude of gratitude this holiday. And every day, for that matter.

Sitting down with friends and family on Thanksgiving, there will be thanks for the steady currents, flowing out of the past, that have brought us to this table. There will be thanks for the present union and reunion of us all. And there will be prayerful thanks for the future. But it’s worth raising a glass (or suspending a forkful for those of you who have gotten ahead of the toast) to be thankful for the unexpected, for all the ways that life interrupts and renews itself without warning.

 What would our lives look like if they held only what we’d planned? Where would our wisdom or patience — or our hope — come from? How could we account for these new faces at the Thanksgiving table or for the faces we’re missing this holiday?

It will never cease to surprise me how the condition of being human means we cannot foretell with any accuracy what next Thanksgiving will bring. We can hope and imagine, and we can fear. But when next Thanksgiving rolls around, we’ll have to take account again, as we do on Thanksgiving, of how the unexpected has shaped our lives. That will mean accounting for how it has enriched us and blessed us, with suffering as much as with joy.

That, perhaps, is what all this plenty is for, as you look down the table, to gather up the past and celebrate the present and open up to the future.

There is the short-term future when there will be room for seconds. Then there is the longer term, a time for blossoming and ripening, for new friends, new family, new love and new hope. Most of what life contains comes to us unexpectedly, after all. It is our job to welcome it and give it meaning. Let us toast what we cannot know and could not have guessed and to the unexpected ways our lives will merge this day and in Thanksgivings to come. 

So as we gather around the table for Thanksgiving dinner, may we be inspired to remember that truly giving thanks is more than something we say. It’s something that we need to do – each and every day of the year.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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