A Little Taste of Thanksgiving All Year Long (Minus the Calories)
The year I grasped the full meaning of Thanksgiving was the year my family spent traveling around the world. We spent that Thanksgiving in Eilat, Israel, a resort town at the tip of the Red Sea, and 6,900 miles away from our home, extended family and friends in Denver, Colorado.
Thanksgiving Day found us in the Kings City Theme Park—an amusement park based on the fun and exciting theme of the Old Testament. No kidding. The pungent sting of chlorine mingled with the biblical diorama and the tale of King Solomon being broadcast through tinny speakers inside our floating log as we drifted through the flume ride set in 967 B.C.E. We drifted past the animatronic display of King Solomon that recreates some of his finer moments like meeting the Queen of Sheba and suggesting that disputing mothers cut a baby in half. Of course, all of this took place in the dark, which was meant to recreate the “bowels of the earth,” according to the signs. Seriously.
I’m not sure whether King Solomon would be revered—or thrown in jail—if he were alive today. And unfortunately, the roller-coaster drop-with-a-splash at the end of the ride was probably a bigger enticement for our family to repeat the ride than the ageless wisdom that inspired the ride. I giggled at the thought that this was a Thanksgiving unlike most. We may not have appreciated the ride in the sense it was intended, but we sure enjoyed each other’s company as we made fun of this outlandish ride.
After Kings City, we made our way to the grocery store to provision up for our Thanksgiving feast, which we planned to make as authentically as possible, to bring a little taste of home to our faraway celebration. This was our third or fourth trip, and our last chance before dinner to pick the “right” package of dairy product (helpfully marked with grazing cows, but unhelpfully labeled in Hebrew—a language that none of us reads), in the hopes of seasoning our mashed potatoes with butter and sour cream instead of cottage cheese and vanilla yogurt. As we once again perused the containers festooned with cows, glasses of milk and Hebrew letters, and played our own version of elimination, our momentary frustration was replaced by laughter as my husband noted that literacy was something he was grateful for, a fact oft overlooked back home.
And this led to some real insights about gratitude. Having spent over six months away from home I was now thankful for many things that I had never really noticed. For example, being born in one of the richest nations in the world to a middle class white family in the 1960s came with some noteworthy benefits. In our travels to that point we had seen plenty of people living without adequate food and shelter—something I rarely noticed or thought about while going about my life in Denver. That Thanksgiving I started wishing I could invent a time machine I could use to clue in my 12-year-old self that having only one Izod shirt really isn’t that big of a burden. (And perhaps, while I was at it, I might pop in on my 15, 20, 25, 30, 35 and 40 year old selves to remind them to pay attention to the good stuff!)
Laughter, protracted time together and even log rides in preposterous Old-Testament theme parks helped drive home the lesson I had missed when tucked safely away in my familiar life in Denver. With the comforts of home and extended family, neighbors and friends miles away, Thanksgiving in Eilat was teaching me about gratitude—especially gratitude for the endless elements of our lives that are right in front of us, but that are so easy to take for granted.
So as we say goodbye to Thanksgiving, 2013, I’m hoping to focus on gratitude for the wonderful things in life I so easily overlook, and I invite your company. Join me as I commit to five minutes each day to write a note of gratitude to someone in my life, a practice inspired by Deepak Chopra’s teaching that “I create my reality through my intention and attention”—and the wish to focus on the good stuff in our lives.
Starting January 1, I will send out periodic reminders, inspiration and suggestions on how to put your attention on gratitude for a couple minutes each day by writing (tweeting, messaging or whatever method suits your fancy) a note of appreciation each day. The goal is to write 360 notes over the course of the year, surrounding yourself with a circle of gratitude. And while the goal is a fully formed circle, the real value will be in the journey in which you’ll create the habit of focusing your attention on gratitude and appreciation each day.
Sign up today and begin receiving encouragement, reminders, and suggestions starting the week before January 1. And join me, as together we traverse the path to a happier, more appreciative life. I can promise you will enjoy, at a minimum, a few minutes each day of appreciating some of the good things in your life. But my hunch is we all might gain new insights and habits that may be much greater than the few minutes of gratitude you’ll experience each day.
And you don’t even need to travel to the bowels of the earth to make it happen!