Thursday Thought: On Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a great, albeit somewhat contradictory, holiday.

As I write, I can't help but think of Jerome Davis, once the host of NPR in Colorado Springs, talking about a similar holiday, Columbus Day, which was going to be celebrated "the Native American way" in Pueblo, Colorado. Always a quick wit, Jerome quipped:

What does that mean? I guess it means buy a big boat and send Whitey back to Europe.

John Stewart had a similar observation about Thanksgiving:

I celebrated Thanksgiving in an old-fashioned way. I invited everyone
in my neighborhood to my house, we had an enormous feast, and then I
killed them and took their land.

Its contradictions aside, I do love what Thanksgiving represents: a day to remember and acknowledge all that we have in our lives. A day to recognize our blessings – mental, physical, emotional – and also think of those less fortunate than us.

Sadly, though, the principle of Thanksgiving sometimes gets buried beneath the mountain of turkey and gravy, cranberry and beer, football games and La-Z-Boys. E.P. Powell put it well when he wrote:

Thanksgiving Day is a jewel, to set in the hearts of honest men; but be careful that you do not take the day, and leave out the gratitude.

Thanksgiving has always been, for me, a day of reflection, a day of perspective, a day which serves to remind me that, in the grand scheme of things, my daily frustrations and the events or happenings which give me angst are small…That, rather than dwelling on them, I should instead focus on the positive things in my life and always remember that my situation could be far worse…and for many it is.

On this Thanksgiving Day Thursday Thought, I want to focus on the simple-yet-profound meaning of "thanks". As I watch my daughter, Lila, learn the importance of uttering that simple word, I realize being thankful is not necessarily something ingrained in the human spirit. It is something we need to learn; we need to teach ourselves to recognize our blessings and to truly appreciate them.

And, once we learn to embrace thanks, to accept gratitude, we realize its importance in giving perspective. As Melody Beattie wrote:

Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.

So, today's Thursday Thought is simple, but profound. (Isn't it often true that the things that are most profound tend to be simple?) It comes from the words of Eckhart von Hochheim, AKA Meister Eckhart, a Fourteenth Century theologian and philosopher from Germany:

If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, “thank you,” that would suffice.

And, what am I thankful for? Too many things to count, but here's a start. I am thankful for:

  • My family – alive and dead, close and far
  • The opportunities I've had throughout my life to explore my passions, and to share them with others
  • This remarkable home called earth, with all its intricacies and surprises
  • The mountains which give me energy, and constantly remind me of the small cog I am in a massive machine
  • The people I encounter on my journeys who share their lives with me, and teach me more about the world than all my schooling ever did
  • The smile on my daughter's face
  • The love of my wife, and her unending support of my endeavors, as well as her criticisms when needed
  • And the list goes on and on…

What are you thankful for?

Happy Thanksgiving!

Jake Norton is an Everest climber, guide, photographer, writer, and motivational speaker from Colorado.

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