Two moments happened today that made me think of Thanksgiving. First, an older man I was behind at the Subway sandwich queue was taking his time finding that one dime that would help with his getting back exact change. Second, as I walked along my street, I looked in to a neighbouring apartment building to see a large group of people sitting around the dining table, laughing and having a good old time.
In both instances, I felt connected to my community.
- The first gentleman, knowing he was delaying me a bit, turned and gave me a genuine, eye catching, “I’m sorry for the inconvenience but isn’t it way cooler to get back bills instead of a handful of change” smile. I couldn’t help but match his gaze and smile back, enjoying the moment.
- The second group just radiated happiness and warmth, to the point where you just had to marvel at the “wow, that actually still happens” of it. I was just an outsider, meandering by, looking into a private moment for this family but still I was a bit in awe of it. I took a breath to let it wash over me, but didn’t linger long enough for it to seem creepy. Hey, the window was wide open and right there.
How does this remind me of the day of thanks? Bear with me.
Every year (in case you didn’t know), the second Monday in October for Canadians and the fourth Thursday in November for Americans, we celebrate Thanksgiving. After a quick Wikipedia search, the day is generally used to celebrate a good harvest and be thankful for what we have, mostly with some religious-y overtones. And that’s great and good and all but I’ve never understood holidays that tell you to do something you should already be doing.
Should you wait until Valentine’s Day to show that special person in your life that you love them with some grand and/or small gesture? Hell’s no. (and if you do, you suck). So why should Thanksgiving be any different?
Let’s look at the cliche traditions for “Turkey Day”…
– families gathering together.
– friends, far from their families (geographically or emotionally) gathering together.
– an amazing dinner (generally)
– gathering a list of what you are grateful for, which you may or may not share on Facebook, Twitter, etc.
These aren’t things we can or should only do around this particular time of year, and maybe again at Christmas. It’s not terrible to make Thanksgiving an excuse to do these things but if they are so amazing, why not make an effort all year round. For example:
1) Gathering – Once a month, put in the calendar an event that brings people together. I know a few friends of mine were regularly playing a friendly (sometimes not so much) game of poker every 30 days. It got us out of the house, it wasn’t expensive and it was an opportunity to keep our friendships close. We’ve since stopped for no other reason than we stopped picking a time and a place because “life” got in the way. Stop it. Your place, next month, the fourteenth. Done.
See, wasn’t that hard.
2) Food – Really, you need an excuse to have amazing food with friends? Really? It’s FOOD. And it doesn’t necessarily have to be yams, stuffing, cranberry sauce, turkey, pumpkin pie, mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, steamed vegetables, cornbread, rolls, or gravy (OK, now I’m hungry). It just has to include effort and be in front of you.
3) Gratitude – If you look at almost any list of “what successful people do” or “ways to stay happy in your life”, you’ll very often see a mention of gratitude. Name 1, 3 or 5 things you are grateful for everyday. 365 days a year. Today I was grateful for a quiet place to read, the sun on my face and my friends are kickass with suggestions while I’m trying to find new furniture. I’m also thankful for the two moments I shared with you at the beginning, Exact Change Man and Old-timey Family Grouping. Be greatful or thankful more often and proactively. It’ll make you a happier person.
Don’t make Thanksgiving an excuse to gather with friends and family, have a conversation over amazing food or be thankful for what you have in your life. Those two, regular moments I described earlier were moments I was thankful for, and they didn’t land on a second Monday or a third Thursday of any month.
How are you making sure Thanksgiving isn’t your excuse?