anne mikolay 2012 120The traditional Thanksgiving activities are in full swing. Little children are making hand-print turkeys. Teachers are dressing students in paper Pilgrim hats. Grandmas and Moms are baking goodies while those with less culinary skills flock to farmers' markets for “homemade” apple and pumpkin pies. There will be parades, football games, March of the Wooden Soldiers, Miracle on 34th Street, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, and if your heart is in the right place, sincere thanks for personal blessings. While giving thanks feels good, being thanked for a kindness freely given feels even better. But here's a little Thanksgiving food for thought: what if no-one says thank you? Can you have Thanksgiving without thanks?

Have you ever done something for someone who doesn't express appreciation? How many times have you held the door for a stranger who simply walks through it without saying a word? How many times have you followed the rules of the road and permitted a car to merge in front of you, and the other driver fails to give a simple wave of thanks? Have you ever searched for just the right gift or handcrafted something special for someone who later fails to thank you? How many meals have you cooked, shirts have you ironed, or rides have you given in your car without acknowledgement? Of course, random acts of kindness should be performed without the need for thanks, but let's be honest. Unacknowledged generosity makes you feel like sap.

Conversely, gratitude boosts your spirits. Recently, after making a baby blanket for a newborn I will likely never meet, the new mom, a relative of someone I know, sent me an old-fashioned, hand-written thank you note. And that made me feel pretty good! That one simple card, that one gesture of thanks, made up for all the other times I have not been thanked. Indeed, the words “thank you”, nowadays sadly deemed old-fashioned, can go a long way!  

You may argue Thanksgiving is not about being thanked for baby blankets or for holding the door for a stranger, but examine the larger picture and you will see that's very much what it's about. On Thanksgiving, we traditionally acknowledge our blessings – our families, health, homes, car, jobs, the bounty upon the table – but there's quite a bit more to be thankful for. Remember the little things that comprise our daily lives. This Thanksgiving, I am thankful for the skill, the health, and the inclination to make baby blankets for a stranger's baby. I am thankful I had parents who taught me manners enough to move me to hold the door for another person. I am thankful for the kindness of a young mother who took time to write me a note, for the gentleman who let me know several items fell out of my shopping bag at Kohls, for the woman with a cart full of groceries kind enough to let me in front of her at the supermarket check-out. I am thankful for perseverance to muddle through the times when I feel like an unappreciated sap who never wants to do anything for anyone again.

Can you have Thanksgiving without thanks? Sure. You can absentmindedly recite traditional platitudes of thanksgiving and stuff your face with turkey. I've done it. We all have. But it feels much better to be grateful, to be thanked and to thank. What if no-one says thank you for something you've done this Thanksgiving, or any other day? Ignore it. Keep on giving, and you'll know your heart is in the right place.

“Though hast given so much to me, give one thing more, - a grateful heart; not thankful when it pleaseth me, as if Thy blessings had spare days, but such a heart whose pulse may be Thy praise.” ~ George Herbert, Welsh-born English poet