Last Thanksgiving, a swath of my extended family (plus myself) convened at my grandparents’ house in New Jersey. On the day of Thanksgiving, as the tempting smell of turkey filled the house and the little ones grew more and more frenzied from excitement over the ten different pies my grandmother had made (but which they were not allowed to eat yet), my aunt called us all to the living room.
As we gathered on chairs and couches (and the toddlers zoomed around on the carpet), she handed us all pieces of paper. “I want you each to write down twenty things you are thankful for, and then we’ll read them at dinner.”
At first it was easy. There are the obvious things: Family. Friends. Love. But once you’ve gotten the big ones out of the way, the other 15-or-so things seem hard to come up with.
“Think about it,” my aunt said. “What specific things make you happy, make your day a little bit better?”
One of the cousins shouted out, “Marshmallows!”
And suddenly things began to come to me in a flood. Fireplaces. The beach. Bacon. The first snowfall. Wool scarves. Comfy beds. Hot chocolate. Sunlight. The smell of gardenias. And on and on and on.
When the time came to read our lists aloud at Thanksgiving dinner, we all ended up having more than twenty items on our lists. My aunt told us that she does the exercise every day, writing down ten things she is thankful for.
I’ve started to do it, too, on a whiteboard beside my bed before I go to sleep at night. When I wake up the next morning, there it is–the list of things I felt especially thankful for the day before (often, there are multiple items of food on the list…we know where my emotional center lies).
It’s amazing how easy it is be grateful for things once you begin. At first, the lists are hard to do, but then they become easier–soeasy that it’s hard to choose just ten. Your mind just starts overflowing with all the things your life has been blessed with.
As Thanksgiving comes around this year, let us once again consider those things we are thankful for. Take a piece of paper. Start listing. You may surprised at what you see–and how many things you have to be grateful for.