We had an unusual family Thanksgiving this year. It was the first time in a long while that our entire family could be together for it. Some close family friends we rarely see also joined us. It was a month early, and was planned only two days in advance to coincide with my sister and brother-in-law’s visit from Ohio.
We were all there, but we were missing the one person usually at the centre of family meals—Mom. She was truly the heart of the home and she loved to host. The most likely place to find her would be in the kitchen. That evening though, I found a part of her legacy upstairs.
We needed to extend our kitchen table to accommodate all 16 of us, so I went in search of our card table. It was in my parents’ room, heaped with random things including extra programs from Mom’s funeral three months earlier, bits of mending she’d intended to do, and a softcover green notebook with lined pages. I flipped through the notebook to see if it had any significance. It was empty except for Mom’s handwriting on the very first page. It said, “Blessings and Miracles.” We’d talked of starting a book like this for our family for a little while. I vaguely remember she’d gotten that notebook shortly before the accident.
I didn’t give the notebook much more thought in the busyness of preparing the meal until I began writing about Thanksgiving. I would like to say we sat as a family and discussed the blessings and miracles in our lives or wrote them in the notebook, but I didn’t even think to mention the book to them.
Thanksgiving is one day of the year when we consciously focus on what we’re thankful for. But sometimes, like the notebook, it’s in retrospect that something impacts us. Thanksgiving shouldn’t stop when the dishes are finished. In one sense, the annual feast is intended to be the pinnacle of thanksgiving. In another sense, it’s a reminder of a deeper attitude of thankfulness all year long.
In recent years there has been much research on the effect gratitude has on our overall health. Science is only backing up what humans have known for millennia: our thoughts, emotions and how we feel physically are all connected. Whether the chicken or the egg comes first may not be the same in every situation. But science, Chinese medicine, and the Bible all agree: our physical, emotional, and mental health are interconnected, often in ways we don’t understand.
One thing we do understand: gratitude can make a big difference. This month’s stories range from intriguing Thanksgiving traditions to the difficult lives of the British Home Children. Despite the tragedy in some of the stories, each one reminds us of something we can be thankful for.
The celebrations around Thanksgiving can help us focus on what we’re grateful for. If we’re not careful though, it can also distract us from the bigger picture. Perhaps this year take some time to consider what gratitude really is. Contemplate the things you’re grateful for before Thanksgiving arrives. Create a plan to incorporate more gratefulness into your daily life after Thanksgiving is over. Maybe start a gratitude journal or your own “Blessings and Miracles” book.