In a rare example of timeliness, I want to talk about thanksgiving. However, not just about the American holiday, but about the general idea of giving thanks for stuff. I know it sounds a bit Pollyanna-ish – if such a word exists – but I genuinely believe that to be thankful and to express those thanks in some way is one of the greatest things we can do as human beings.
As a Christian, giving thanks to God is part and parcel of my religious beliefs. Yes, it’s sometimes hard to do when you feel that the world is giving you a good kicking, but I always try and include something in my daily prayers.
And that does make me aware that on the whole most of us who can read this in the comfort of their own home have a couple of things at least to be thankful for immediately; you currently have a roof over your head, and you have the facilities and money required to at least for the moment give you Internet access. And I think that that is where our ‘practising thankfulness’ has to start; much of what we take for granted is worthy of being grateful for, even if we’ve worked for it and think that we deserve it.
There’s actually some suggestion that being grateful and saying thank you is actually good for you. I’ve always been a better giver than receiver; I’m not terribly good at taking compliments, or receiving help, or being on the receiving end of thanks or congratulations – it makes me rather uncomfortable. But saying thanks to folks – never really been a problem for me.
It’s something that is so easy to do, and it makes a difference to people. Even I, with my reluctance to take thanks-yous well, feel better when someone thanks me. I’ll be a bit embarrassed about it, but I try to take it well and it usually does end up bringing a smile to my face. It certainly does me more good than the times when I put myself out for someone and they ignore it or take it for granted! It’s not that I do stuff and expect thanks; it’s just nice to be appreciated.
And as for being thankful – it seems logical to me. I think when you offer thanks – to the world, the universe, God, the next door neighbour, whatever – you’re actually acknowledging that you’ve been part of something collaborative; that you’re aware at some level that you needed something or someone else to help you bring about something that you’ve done. It’s a source of humility; it’s something that brings you down to earth. It prevents you from being arrogant and overly proud. Genuine gratitude for anything is the means by which we can connect with something bigger than ourselves.
By saying thank you to the chap who held the door open, we establish – albeit briefly and temporarily – a new relationship. By thanking folks for those small impacts on our lives, we might be helping them feel better and perhaps encouraging them to ‘spread the word’ in some way.
Which these days has got to be worth doing!