I’ve spent a few Thanksgivings alone. I could have visited my family, but as a single adult, there were years I couldn’t afford to fly home for Thanksgiving and Christmas so I always chose to travel in December.
During these years, there were often friends with families who opened their doors to me and shared their tables. Without exception, I always walked away grateful for their compassion and generosity. But there were years when I didn’t have anywhere to go to celebrate. My response was always the same: at first I felt bummed, but then I decided not to stay bummed. I chose to take the “thank” in Thanksgiving seriously by practicing gratitude. At first the choice was hard, but without exception, positive feelings always followed.
One year I thought, I am thankful that I don’t have to do anything that anyone wants me to do today! I felt like a kid who had just been told that she had a free vacation day from school and could do whatever she wanted. I decided to enjoy my free day from life by heading to Redbox. I rented a pile of movies and ate a pile of feel-good snacks. Another Thanksgiving Day, I tackled a pile of home projects I had been neglecting and then I made a list of everything I was grateful for.
This year, I am celebrating Thanksgiving with my husband, my bonus kids, my grandson, and my grand dog. Of course, I love each one, but I do miss my biological family and I am sad I can’t celebrate with them too. But I have decided to do what I did those years when I spent Thanksgivings alone: I am going to take the “thank” in Thanksgiving seriously.
Being grateful isn’t just for those times when things are going how we’d like. Being thankful is a choice we need to make when things aren’t going how we’d like. The great news is that we don’t have to be stuck in the mud of being miserable. We can literally change how we think about something by an act of the will. If we couldn’t, then the command of 1 Thessalonians 5:18 wouldn’t exist. “…give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” All circumstances. Not just when you are with those you love. Not just when things go well with those you are with on Thanksgiving. Not just when your kids don’t fight at the table, and your Uncle John isn’t rude to your mother. No matter what you are facing this Thanksgiving, choose to be grateful.
And one last thing. . . if you know someone who is alone this Thanksgiving, perhaps a widow, widower, or single adult, open your door to them and share your table. It will enlarge your heart and they will be blessed.
Have a wonderful day giving thanks this year!