When it comes to the retail world, this time of year is just simply irritating! I love Halloween and as a family we go all out to provide a fun experience for our neighborhood. This year we gave over 375 bags of fresh popcorn to kids and handed out over 4 gallons of hot cocoa to the adults. What a great community-building holiday! The next day (November 1st) I needed to go to the store and, not to my surprise, the store was filled with Christmas themed decorations, music and products. This is irritating because each year our society gets further and further away from celebrating one of the most important holidays of the year - Thanksgiving.
It's not that I don't appreciate Christmas, and it's not that I'm way into celebrating the union of the early settlers with the Native Americans...it is that I am passionate about taking time for thanks and gratitude! I fear that in our urgency to move from Halloween to Christmas we simply skip over an opportunity for us as individuals, as communities, and as the nation to reflect upon the amazing blessings that we have and to give thanks.
I don't think many people really fathom how far they have come in life or able to see the blessings that stand right in front of them. I became quite aware of this early in life while serving a church mission in Russia. For two years I knocked doors inviting people to listen to the gospel. This got me into a lot of apartments. After visiting hundreds, if not thousands, of homes I noticed something. I saw only one microwave, very few computers and only about half the homes had a phone. Sure, this was in the late 1990's, but in comparison to what we have here in the USA, we are very, very blessed even in our daily lives.
Unfortunately, most people concentrate on life's troubles instead of the blessings. They worry about what they don't have, what they think they need and the scare of uncertain roads ahead instead of being thankful for the joys the journey of life has already brought to them.
Gratitude is extremely important when we consider its relevance in human relations. John Maxwell has expressed that our personal growth is tied to our professions of gratitude. Why? Because "what we appreciate, appreciates." When we express thanks to others they are more likely to assist us in the future. People enjoy working with those who acknowledge their contribution and affirm their value. As you pass your gratitude onto others, they are more motivated to help you even more.
Conversely, people are repelled from relationships where their effort goes unnoticed or routinely gets overlooked. No one wants to work where they feel invisible or ignored. Often a leader's influence is inhibited by characteristics such as pride, isolation and selfishness. Gratitude can help us overcome these natural shortcomings.
So as we move further and further into November, decide right here and now to intentionally be more grateful. Share with others why you enjoy their friendship. Let your coworkers know how thankful you are for the work that they do (this may force you think positively about the contributions they do make). Call your parents and tell them how their influence has effected who you are as a person. Take time to say "thank you" to the clerk behind the counter. Express to the higher powers all that you are, all that He has helped you become.
This Thanksgiving, let's ensure that this is not a forgotten holiday, but one where we grow as a nation by expressing our gratitude one to another. Certainly, this will raise the spirits of others, will help us realize all that we have, and will set our hearts into the perfect place to express the grandest of all thanks for the greatest of all gifts this December.