Life & Love

Thanksgiving, an Opportunity for Gracious Gratitude

gracious gratitude

Gracious Gratitude: More Than Just Giving Thanks

Once we get past the ridiculous portrayal of newly settled pilgrims sitting down with the original Americans celebrating a meal together, we can embrace what the current meaning of Thanksgiving means to most: family, friends and a great meal (well for me, that means being lucky enough to get invited by someone who can cook!).

Of course, it has evolved into a holiday commercialized by overnight, tent throwing Black Friday shopping bargain addicts, but just the name of the holiday makes it very clear where our focus should be; being thankful for what you have in the moment.

Bigger words for that emotion are called “gracious gratitude.” It is one of the most important life lessons we must get good at if you want to make your life work as a somewhat peaceful, happy and enjoyable journey.

I know there aren’t many of us who each day dwell on how blessed and lucky we are to have the lives that we do, regardless of the challenges we are facing but there is still always something to find graciousness about. A hug from a child, a beautiful mountain view, a phone call from someone you have not heard from in awhile, a good report from the doctor.

Soul expanding mindset

So, what exactly is the difference between being just thankful for a great meal, roof over your head, family around and a soul expanding mindset of “gracious gratitude?” Being thankful is a feeling; being grateful is a noun or an action.

As the name denotes, Thanksgiving is a holiday dedicated to the focus of being thankful. This time of year, gives us that warm, fuzzy feeling of having a few days where we feel generally thankful for the wonderful things our lives include.

That is how Thanksgiving is supposed to make us feel, that everything all is right in your world during the hours of a good meal and conversation. That is why we have used the word thank you as a way of showing gratitude for something you are receiving.

I use the word “receiving” there, it is easy to be thankful when the good is flowing your way. We wait for that one time a year in which we can focus on that thankful feeling.

But where is the practice of that thankfulness? Where do we draw the line between a shallow feeling and an intentional way of life? Gratitude is when we dwell on more than just the feeling of thankfulness. Thankfulness is the first step and then we can build on that initial feeling. How we build is by redirecting our focus to gracious gratitude of even the smallest gift and miracle a steady part of our lives, 365 days a year.

A place of grace

Gracious gratitude comes with the action of being in the middle of a storm of bad luck, that you can remain in a place of grace, hope, compassion and caring for yourself and others.

One of the worst episodes of my 20’s was where I had lost my home, had a drug addiction, no money and on a Greyhound bus taking me back to a place I knew I was not wanted. I had 23 cents in my pocket and hadn’t eaten in two days. A moment of what gracious gratitude looked like was about to become very apparent to me versus just saying thank you.

When I got off the bus, the people whom I expected to pick me up did not. Instead complete strangers took me in their home in a Vermont blizzard, fed me and made a bed for me on their living room couch in front of the Christmas tree. Oh yeah, it was Christmas eve to add fuel to the fire of what my poor pity me ego could have made out of it but instead something amazing happened! I felt the open hearts that were being extended to me and that is all I knew.

From that came the action of consciously being aware of how wonderful it was just being in that moment of warmth, full tummy, twinkling Christmas lights and a beautiful fireplace going. There were no emotions of what I did not have that they had only that they were sharing it with me.

That is what gracious gratitude is, no matter what challenge you are facing, you still make a conscious choice to see the good that also comes with it and you pay it forward. It’s about living out that gratitude through the simple things we do every day. When we set our minds towards focusing on how blessed we are, even in the smallest way, it makes it easier for us to want to help better our lives and others.

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