Over the last couple of weeks Facebook has been littered with statuses that give thanks for a variety of things. This outpouring of thankfulness begins on Nov. 1 and lasts until Nov. 30 for the super committed, while everyone else teeters out some time around Thanksgiving Day. Statuses usually include something about: friends and family, spouses/partners, jobs, children, homes, the weather, and food.
I have to admit that this year I have skipped over nearly every status about thankfulness. I felt guilty about this and even more so when I began to find myself annoyed by all those giving thanks. I know that I shouldn’t be upset about people expressing their gratitude but I was having trouble pinpointing exactly what was bothering me.
That was until yesterday, when my eldest daughter came home from elementary school and asked what Black Friday was. She said she overheard some boys at school talking about it. It felt odd and a little disconcerting when I explained how we give thanks for all that we have one day and shop till we drop the next.
In trying to explain Black Friday to my daughter, I realized that it wasn’t giving thanks that was bothering me but rather, how quickly we forget our thankfulness. True gratitude is not something an individual does once a year or even for one month a year. It is rather a state of mind, an attitude, a way of being in the world. To cultivate this kind of gratitude, you have to practice being thankful every day for years. It takes practice and patience as one learns to appreciate what one already has rather than focusing on what an individual lacks.
When gratitude is practiced regularly, our lives change. We stop chasing after the latest craze and begin to treasure what we already have. With less chasing going on, we discover that we have more time to spend with our families. Gratitude transforms us into people who try to fix their possessions before they run out to buy a new one saving both the Earth and their time. We become people who share what we have with others, blessing not only ourselves in the process but also those with whom we share. When we do these things, our lives deepen and become enriched and we discover, often to our amazement, that we already have an abundance of everything we need.
Meister Eckhart, a 13th-century Christian mystic, once said, "If the only prayer you ever say in your whole life is "thank you," that would suffice." This prayer is indeed sufficient if we are truly expressing our gratitude and not simply updating our Facebook status. If we want to be thankful people, it will take more than 30 days on Facebook. It will instead take work, dedication, and a willingness to be transformed.