At Thanksgiving, Feeling Thankful Isn’t Enough

Thanksgiving (known to many as “Pre-Christmas”) is next week, and I’ve been seeing gratitude posts all over social media, a kind of “Thank-down” to Turkey Day. Many of these posts are genuine and heartfelt; others, I’d guess, are for the sake of appearances. Because if you don’t participate in the Thank-down, all of your followers will think you’re an ungrateful jerk. Obviously.

As someone who’s been an enthusiastic gratitude poster in the past, I totally get it. Feeling thankful feels good. Having to come up with a post for each day allows you to really examine and appreciate your blessings. It’s not a bad thing.

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Thankful for these three for sure. 

What I’d like to do, however, is to propose a Thank-down, version 2.0. A verbal Thank-down. A personal, not a public, Thank-down. Maybe it would go a little like this:

Call your mom. Say Thank you, mom, for literally everything. Thank you for feeding me and tucking me in and making it to all of my track meets, every one. Thank you for trying to make me a decent human being, even when it took the form of you ramming my door with the vacuum cleaner over and over again that morning I was hungover on college break. I’m sure I deserved that.

Then call your dad. His own phone call, not just I’m talking to you because I already talked to mom. Call him first, even. Hey, dad. Thanks for teaching me how to drive. Thanks for always telling me I could stand to put on some weight.  Thank you for that time you took me to see Bush when I was twelve and I spent the whole time screaming, “I love you, Gavin!” That was pretty much the coolest thing ever.

If your parents were terrible people, call or write or message the person that gave love to kid-you. Let them know that you made it to adulthood, and they’re part of the reason why.



Thankful for my original fam.

Thank your friends. You’re awesome and I love you. Thank you for being generally amazing. Who doesn’t want to get that text?

If you have siblings, thank them. Even if it’s completely unspecific, it’s still nice. Thank you for being my sister. (As if they had any say.)

Thank your spouse or significant other for choosing you. Thank them for putting up with all your bullshit, day in and day out. I could – and probably should – write my husband a ten-page letter telling him all of the reasons I’m thankful for him. Do this with no expectation of getting a letter in return, because gratitude is unconditional.

The same goes for your children, who most likely reside way up at the peak of your gratitude pyramid. Ask them, Do you know why I’m thankful for you? Tell them until they get bored and wander away. Tomorrow, ask them the same question. See if they were listening. I bet they were.

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Thankful for beautiful details. 

Thank as many people as you possibly can, anyone you see whom you have the slightest reason to thank. The school crossing guard. The custodian. Thank your doctors and nurses, policemen and rescue workers. Thank your elected officials – then make sure they know just what they can do to best represent you. Thank every teacher you or your children have ever had; thank them over and over again for the time they invest in our country’s future. Thank the barista who hands you your morning coffee. Give a grateful wave to the driver who lets you merge. Go out of your way to look for people to thank.

Thank God, your god, whatever that looks like to you. Out loud, like you mean it. Thank your religious leaders, who do the difficult work of trying to usher us selfish people toward goodness.

And remember, Thanksgiving isn’t a deadline. It doesn’t have to be the culmination of gratitude. In fact, it can be the perfect starting point.

P.S. If you read this, thank you.