Have you ever had a moment when you felt utmost genuine thankfulness? The kind of thankfulness that lifts up your spirit to rest in continuous gratitude.
Now think about a moment when you were acquainted with hardship--the kind when you experienced devastations and throttles that made it hard to utter words of thanks.
My question for you is this: has it ever been easy to give thanks in both of these circumstances?
If you are like me the answer is probably a resounding no. For many of us thankfulness comes most easily in refreshing times. During joyous seasons, it is easy for us to celebrate and give thanks for the little things. However we must do well to remember this fact: the most character building moments in life happens when one is able to recognize the good circumstances surrounding them during hard times.
This is possible through the art thanksgiving.
Yes--thanksgiving is a form of art.
Each and every single individual is capable of mastering this craft. It is not for black or white, neither is it for the most intelligent, strongest or wealthiest--it is for all.
Thankfulness Brings Awareness to the Good Things in Life.
Practicing gratitude often diverts our eyes away from pressing issues. Normally when people experience certain hardships, their focus hovers over the specific issue at hand making them lose sight of the wonderful things surrounding them. This eventually leads to the restriction of joy--the natural response to thanksgiving. Here’s an example from my own life.
Three years ago, I took a trip to China. One day after a hectic afternoon, I hopped on a train to get back home. I was overwhelmed and exhausted. As the train began to move, I closed my eyes to calm my thoughts. When I opened them I saw an elderly Chinese woman staring at me. This did not surprise me because being a dark-brown woman in Beijing usually garnered a lot of attention. A couple of minutes went by, and I could still feel her hot gaze on my face. So I lifted my eyes and looked right at her.
My whole body shook in joyous rhythms as I was greeted with the biggest smile I have ever seen in my life—missing teeth and all. This woman was the epitome of pure bliss. Her eyes widened as her gaze shifted from my skin, to my hair, then back to my face. Then I smiled back. It started small, from the corners of my mouth, then as her smile widened, I couldn’t help but give myself to joy. In those moments, my worries and troubles were gone. I did not think about the problems weighing down my thoughts. I got off the train feeling excited and so thankful. I allowed myself to be taught by this woman that joy is close to each one of us. It is a choice that we make when we choose to reflect on the good things in life. We only need to reach for it in moments of hardship, and it's enchanting allure will capture us.
Giving is the Natural Response of a Thankful Heart
Self-absorption can sometimes cause failure to recognize the needs around us. However if one’s eye is opened to see the good things in life, they are able to reach a point where giving becomes a natural pathway in their day to day interactions.
I went to a small liberal arts college. There were many international students on campus. During the holidays, these students were unable to travel to their native countries to be with family. However, there were countless occasions when families in Fulton and various organizations came together to give up their time, resources and skills to make the international students feel loved and appreciated. I recall many joyous backyard and dinner gatherings. The Fulton community did not have to do what they did during these holidays, but through the art of giving thanks for what they had, they were able to master the art of giving back to those with a need.
This Thanksgiving holiday, as you sit and fall within the impeccable ambiance of your loved ones, basking in the warmth of laughter, music and warm sweaters, bring to remembrance the things you have to be thankful. And before you know it, ever so swiftly, you might just master the art of thankfulness.
Freda Boateng mananges the blog for Character.org and is the Administrative Assistant.