This is the time of year when we especially focus on gratitude. As we prepare for Thanksgiving holidays this week, it’s an ideal time to draw our attention inward. It’s been a heck of year for most of us. Our national conversations, global and national tragedies, intensive weather and natural events have captured our attention, our hearts and our psyches.
As leaders, we need a powerful antidote. Sometimes the “non-doing” alternative is preferable to attempting to do more. “Non-doing” doesn’t mean that we don’t act. It means that we allow. We quiet ourselves into still reflection. We draw inwards. In spite of the stress and strains we are under, the health challenges we have personally had or are supporting others through, the one thing we can do is focus on what we are truly grateful for.
These past few weeks I have been tested in new ways in my own life. I’ve used these challenges as a vehicle for exploring “what am I grateful for today?” When I explore this question, I can usually fill a page with specifics. And the next day another page, and then another. When the pages are full of “captured gratitudes,” I realize that although I am not necessarily “happy” with all that I’m experiencing, what I am grateful for far exceeds my discomfort. This balm is healing for my soul.
As you prepare to gather around your Thanksgiving table this week, whether it be with family of origin or family of choice, here’s a suggestion from my own life. I am truly grateful to be part of an extended family that contains three generations. For many years, and up until last Thanksgiving, I had both my parents alive, with all seven of their grandchildren. I realized what an incredibly powerful opportunity this was for the younger generations to listen, learn, and also share gratitude with their aunts, uncles, parents and grandparents.
Some years ago, I began asking the youngest at the table to share the one thing they were most grateful for in the last year. We continue one by one, in reverse chronological order, and this year, we will end with my 90-year old mother. In the past, this sharing felt a bit awkward to begin, but once everyone got going it deepened our appreciation of one another in ways we could not have done with “chit-chat.”