What My Daughter Taught Me About Giving Thanks

Every Thanksgiving, it's an annual rite of passage to think about those things for which we are thankful. In our home, like I suspect in many others, it's usually a cursory reflection lasting just a few minutes before we dig into the turkey and stuffing.

But shouldn’t real gratitude be a little more expansive than this?

Do me a favor -- take this two-minute quiz to see how grateful you really are?

Just the act of taking this quiz will make you feel more thankful. Why? Because it forces us to reflect on the many things we have to be grateful for but forget in our day-to-day lives.

Case in point: Every night at bedtime, I sing “Hush Little Baby” to my three little girls. It’s undoubtedly off key and each time I make up different lyrics to the song. Let’s just say some nights the performance is better than others. But every night, when finished, my oldest daughter, says the exact same thing, “Good night daddy, I love you. Thank you for singing Hush Little Baby.”

Even when tired, sick or upset, she always, I mean always, says thank you. This simple, repetitive act of gratitude makes me feel like a million bucks when I leave her room. It simultaneously reminds me that we’re raising a sweet little girl AND motivates me to sing that song the next night and strive to be a better parent in general. All out of one little "thank you" said night after night.

You see, feeling gratitude is a far cry from being grateful. "Being" requires taking action. So how often do you act grateful?

Go back and think of those things for which you are truly thankful. Your life -- have you thanked your parents lately for bringing you into this world? Your partner or spouse -- what nice thing do you do every day to thank them? Your job – when was the last time you wrote a note telling your team or your boss how much you appreciated their support?

It goes on and on -- a childhood friend, an influential teacher, a song or movie that lifted you up when you were down, a government program that allowed you to go to college (see Claiborne Pell), or get food assistance for your kids (see Isabelle Kelley), the person who introduced you to your wife or helped you get a new job, the doctor who delivered your children or provided them care when they were sick.

In this mad, mad world, it is easy to get caught up in our daily stress or overwhelmed by the issues that loom over our country and the world. Being bombarded by the bad can cloud our ability to see what we could be bringing us gladness.

Our gratitude, regardless of our circumstance, has the potential to be endless, yet how often do we truly feel grateful, let alone practice it?

So this Thanksgiving, after you pass the turkey around the table, make a plan to pass some gratitude around your life. Each day find someone or something to be grateful for – and act to make sure they know exactly how you feel.

To get things started on my end, thank you Carlin for teaching Daddy an important lesson about giving thanks.

If you’re “thankful” for this article, I hope you’ll sign up for our Monday morning Moving Up Newsletter.
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