This Thanksgiving, I find myself thinking about the power of gratitude. Thanksgiving is a funny holiday in Jerusalem. So many of my friends here grew up in the US. A few of them try to do something Thanksgiving like (we like to make pumpkin pie), but for the most part it’s an afterthought. The two people I’ve wished a happy Thanksgiving to this morning both had the same reaction, “Oh right, that’s today, isn’t it?”
Growing up, Thanksgiving for me was about family getting together, it was about great food, it was about watching and playing football. While there was certainly some discussion during the meal about gratitude for all we had, it was never an essential part of my experience of the day.
Yet, today, thousands of miles away from where my extended family is getting together for their annual feast, I find my mind going back to the core of the day, to gratitude. I’ve learned in recent years the tremendous power of the gratitude. I remember when I first learned about the Jewish practice of Hitbodedut, which is simply the practice of talking to God, normally done in the woods or some other secluded, beautiful place. The very idea of just going off to talk to God made me uncomfortable. What would I speak about anyway? The Rabbi teaching gave a very simple piece of advice, “Just start with gratitude. Let everything else flow from there.”
The practice I do now has evolved somewhat from there, but it still begins with gratitude. From there it moves on to sharing areas where I’m struggling, and then it ends at vision/requests for the future. But both of those other areas, the focus on my struggles, and the focus on my dreams, are different when growing out of the context of gratitude. Remove gratitude, and struggles and dreams could become complaints, could arouse bitterness, could awaken dissatisfaction with my current state. Coming from gratitude, they’re completely different, they say “I am overjoyed with all that I have, with all that I am, AND I know I can do more, be more.” It’s acknowledging my wholeness, that everything in my life is exactly as it should be, and it leaves room for growth, to work on myself, to build the future.
I want to bless everyone with an amazing Thanksgiving, and that between the family, food, and football you should carve out a moment to grow the feelings of gratitude within yourself.