In light of Thanksgiving, I’m sure we’ve all learned numerous ways to be thankful, especially in this season that outwardly reminds us to be. As in, “Just in case you forgot to express gratitude the rest of the year, here’s a seasonal reminder to say, ‘Thank you!’”
In a lot of ways, we shy away from our natural desire to show our gratitude. Sure, it’s great to be thankful in our own minds, but have we forgotten how to reach out, say it aloud, or write a thank you card?
Yes, prayerful thanksgiving is important. But it’s not the only way to show our thanks. Gratitude isn’t private; it’s lived out loud.
Think of it this way: Gratefulness is one of the ways we express love. It can go under the “love” umbrella. If I love someone, should I just contemplate my love for that person and hope they understand it? No. I should show them and tell them how much I love them! Love is an action, a choice, and a daily endeavor. And though we do meditate on its impact and significance, keeping it on the inside sort of defeats the purpose of sharing. Thankfulness isn’t for us to hoard; it’s for us to share.
So, how do we wear our thanks on our sleeve?
I’ll offer a real example. About 60% of the clothes in my closet are hand-me-downs. I sometimes joke that secondhand clothing isn’t just happenstance, but a lifestyle. Those scarves, blouses, skirts, and shirts are all loving reminders of my friends, roommates past, and obnoxiously large extended family. When I was much younger, this felt pretty lame. Now I see it like the gift that it is. Not because thrifting is the cool thing to do nowadays, but because it is the outward sign of another’s company, both while we swap and when we part ways wearing the other’s apparel. While someone is walking the streets of a different city in my cardigan, I’m sporting their old baseball cap. We feel thankful for and nearer to the other person.
The act of exchanging is a sign of thanks in itself. The clothing is a physical reminder of who loves me, our time spent together, what my loved one finds beautiful, and the enmeshing of our stories within the fabric. Needless to say, clothing swaps have become somewhat of a community-bonding event in my friend and family circles. We’ve learned to give thanks through borrowed materials.
Showing outward thanks doesn’t apply just to material belongings; it goes for intangibles too. Feeling thankful for food? Cook dinner for someone. Thankful for mobility? Go for a walk or a run. Thankful for smiles? Leave an anonymous note for a stranger. Give. And do it with the spirit of love — if you’re mumbling and grumbling while unloading the dishwasher, it doesn’t count. The simpler the better. Remember, it’s the little things.
We do things naturally to give thanks all the time — we hug when we’re thankful for closeness; we spend time with others to give thanks for community; we laugh when we find something funny. For every thought, there is an appropriate action. For every emotion, there is a corresponding response. It’s how we’re made — tap into that natural instinct.
Giving thanks is about sharing, and sharing is an outward sign of gratitude. I challenge you to be creative with your gifts and simple with your actions. Maybe we can use this Thanksgiving as a practice round for showing our gratitude all year long.