Finally Thankful

It’s that time of year again, when we take turns around the Thanksgiving table and say what we’re thankful for.

From the youngest to the oldest, “I’m thankful for . . .” is the way most of these declarations start. We mention things that are in our lives now: our homes, our families, our jobs, our pets. Sometimes we even name them individually, especially if the speaker is seven years old: “I’m thankful for Lulu, my English bulldog.”

But have you ever been thankful for things in your past that you weren’t thankful for at the time?

Like when my daddy was being abusive. I couldn’t very well say, “Thank you, God, that this man you gave me to be my father has once again belittled me, yelled at me, and smacked me, leaving a bruise where it’s covered by my clothing.”

But I can be thankful now that I endured that. After living with a bully, I can now stand up to bullies or just walk away from them and usher them out of my life. I learned that life is too short and too wonderful to live in their imposing shadows and influence.

When my parents couldn’t afford to help me pay for college, I was less than thankful. After only three semesters, I ran out of money and had to quit. Twenty-two years later, I finally earned that degree and could give thanks, but not without a lot of resentment for the delay and lack of support.

I wasn’t thankful when my husband was dying of cancer; in fact, it was quite the opposite. But after his death, I wrote a book to help cancer patients and caregivers. I’ve spoken to groups of folks traveling the road I traversed. So now, I can be thankful that surviving that experience has helped hundreds, maybe thousands of others, through my book and my example.

We can also give thanks that we no longer have to face what was once before us. We recovered from that accident or surgery; we managed to get out of the job we hated; or we moved away from that horrible neighbor.

And never fail to be thankful for the ability to forgive.

One of the most freeing things you can do is relinquish people and circumstances of your past that are controlling your present and future.

So tomorrow, as we sit down to break bread and carve up a huge bird with friends and family, let’s stop to think about what we’ve lived through and grown from and be thankful for that. We may help someone at the table who didn’t know we’d already walked the path he or she is traveling today.

God loves it when we appreciate his gifts, even when his gift is a lesson learned the hard way.

But it’s okay to be thankful for what we have today. We don’t want to change tradition.

Here’s an idea: why can’t we be thankful all year long? Maybe one night in January, we could be sitting at the dinner table and start with, “I’m thankful for…,” and share our gratitude. Sometimes just hearing something helps us to keep it in mind.

Let’s be thankful just to be thankful, not because it’s that time of year.