Thanksgiving blog 2020-FINAL image

Power down. Reboot with gratitude.

How many times have you found your computer or phone not working properly, then in a fit of frustration shut it off in hopes that a reboot would lead to the device working correctly?

I’m guessing a lot.  I sure have.

It seems to me that when you get rid of all the things running in the background, the malfunctioning system reboots with focus.  Often, it’s just the fix needed.

Life is like that.  We kid ourselves that we are awesome multi-taskers, overloading ourselves with millions of sensory inputs in any given day, flirting between one thing and the next, not living in the moment.

The result: lost focus, fatigue, stress, and potentially an assault on one’s physical, mental and emotional health.  A system meltdown, unhappiness.

Try unplugging and rebooting with gratitude.

Thanksgiving is just the time to get started!

Back in 1621 – when rebooting meant something else entirely – Governor William Bradford and the Plymouth colonists invited the Wampanoag Native Americans to gather and give thanks for the harvest, while expressing their gratitude for the natives’ critical role in their survival.  One hundred and two passengers had left Plymouth, England in September of 1620, and only half lived to see their first New England spring.

This feast of thanks lasted three days, and as Pilgrim chronicler Edward Winslow wrote: “Although it be not always so plentiful, as it was at this time with us, … we often wish you partakers of our plenty.”

The surviving Pilgrims chose to focus on their bounty – and share it – rather than their hardships and loss.

Gratitude. Plain and simple, with a side dish of pass it on.

Fast forward to 2020.  How do we shut down the negative and practice gratitude, every day?  How do we reboot?

Mark Twain advised, “A habit cannot be tossed out the window; it must be coaxed down the stairs, one step at a time.”

For me, developing a grateful mindset starts when I wake up.  I recall Archbishop Fulton Sheen sharing the comparison of two types of people waking up:

Some wake and proclaim: “Good morning, God!”

Others wake and grumble: “Good God…morning.”

So, for me, I wake and try to remember what blessings I encountered yesterday.  I ask myself what am I grateful for today, and what good can I do with the blessings I have this day?

Asking these questions every day is step one; step two is putting gratitude into action so it becomes a habit.  It’s focusing on the positive, the opportunity every day presents.  It’s rewiring your brain to live in the present.  It’s embracing each day with a ‘glad to be here’ attitude.

What I have discovered is gratitude is powerful.  It helped the Pilgrims face the unknown, embrace the help of strangers in a foreign land, and propel them to purpose beyond themselves.

Gratitude – I believe – is also the secret sauce for happiness.  The two go together like mashed potatoes and gravy, turkey and stuffing.

Today, our circumstances for giving thanks look different from the harsh realities of the Pilgrims and the post-Civil War survivalists who proclaimed Thanksgiving a national holiday, yet gratitude can continue to fuel our happiness and lead us to greater purpose.

2020 has certainly presented many challenges.  Yes, the pandemic, politics, civil unrest, and personal setbacks have disrupted our lives, but rather than focus on the losses and what-ifs, I challenge you to join me in focusing on gratitude.

I am grateful to live in this country and the land of opportunity.  And I am grateful that Sarah Josepha Hale didn’t let up on her 36-year campaign. Like the determined little lamb and Mary in her famous penned nursery rhythm, Sarah eventually persuaded President Abraham Lincoln in 1863 to designate Thanksgiving as a national holiday – the first country to do so.

I’m grateful she did.  Now it’s up to us to practice gratefulness every day.

Gratitude – pass it on.