Practices From the inside Out: What is Thanksgiving All About?

Practices From the inside Out: What is Thanksgiving All About? November 17, 2022

Practices From the Inside Out: What is Thanksgiving All About?

What is Thanksgiving All About?

We are one week away from Thanksgiving Day, 2022. What is it all about? Is it even still its own holiday?

It can be more than a precursor to Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday, or the day “shopping season” begins. It is more than Turkey Day or the next stepping stone to college bowl eligibility.

Retailers are desperate to generate revenue, and we want to do what we can to help the economy.

I enjoy good football games, and really appreciate great food.

It is probably not too surprising the one day each year we set aside to reflect and count our blessings seems to get smaller and smaller. Giving thanks is not an easy way to motivate people to buy more things.

The day is stuck between those two financial powerhouses, “the day for which we decorate and buy candy” and “the day for which we decorate and buy presents.”

It often makes us uncomfortable. Not the day, nor the enormous meals nor the family time.

We are not eager to give thanks for what we have received.

Most of us prefer to believe we deserve what we have. We work hard, and have earned the fruit of our labor. It is natural to want a day to enjoy what we have earned.

It is not about what we have earned, but a day to remember and reflect on how much we have been given.

How can we spend more of our Thanksgiving being thankful?

As we let go of things which distract us, can we focus on what we have been given rather than what we have earned?

Remembering What Thanksgiving is All About

We have gotten used to thinking about Thanksgiving as an event. We celebrate it with large meals, parades, lots of football on television. For many of us it is the beginning of the retail season.

There are people who have jobs which require them to work next Thursday.

Even some of us who do not need to show up at our jobs on Thursday work on Thanksgiving.

It is more than a single day event just over a month before the end of the year.

We like to think we earn what we have and how we live through our own behavior. We like to think we somehow deserve the ability to consume an inordinate share of the world’s resources.

Gratitude does not come naturally for us.

Our gratitude depends on our ability to receive and recognize the gifts life has for us. We are still working on our willingness to accept blessings as gifts, not as wages. When we believe we have a right to health, wealth, or happiness, it is difficult for us to be thankful. Many of us experience the value of these gifts more authentically when we lose them for a time.

Even the experiences we do not enjoy, which make us feel uncomfortable, can give us gifts. As we remember and reflect on what happens to us, we unwrap the gifts life has for us. Some of the times we least appreciate may have the most valuable gifts we receive.

Our thanksgiving has more to do with our own attitudes and expectations than our circumstances.

This week is an opportunity for us to build authentic thanksgiving. We can take time to breathe deeply, to listen, to be present to life.

Each of us can take time this week to remember and reflect, to practice our thanksgiving.

Practicing What Thanksgiving is All About

How do we practice authentic thanksgiving?

I am not talking about learning to deep-frying a turkey or a new way to make gravy. Practicing thanksgiving is not about getting ready to watch more football. Our thanksgiving is not limited to one day in November, or October.

Thanksgiving is all about how we respond to all the blessings of this life.

For some of us, giving thanks is something we do within ourselves. We may sit quietly, remembering people and experiences which shaped our lives. Thanksgiving may be our attitude of gratitude.

For others, thanksgiving is more about what we do, how we behave. Some of us spend time each week, not only in November, feeding hungry people. We are grateful to have food, and show our gratitude by helping people who do not. These people are not really more kind than the rest of us. They put their thanksgiving into practice.

Some of us demonstrate what thanksgiving is all about no matter how we feel at the moment.

My own thanksgiving, and lack of thanksgiving, has taught me serious lessons. It is easy for me to forget how thankful I believe I am. I am more grateful when I pause to take a breath, to remember and reflect.

Fear can make it more challenging for us to remember and put into practice what thanksgiving is all about.

When we are afraid we tend to hold onto what we have, or think we need more. We like to believe our possessions and wealth keep us safe. When we are discouraged, or despairing, we do not feel particularly thankful.

My own practice of thanksgiving grows stronger when I pay more attention to life’s blessings. Life may become filled with distractions when I see things as obstacles, not potential lessons.

What is Thanksgiving is All About For Us?

It is easy for us to become caught up in the momentum of “The Holidays” and forget what each one is all about. Our lives are full of distractions which draw our attention away from what is important to us. Holidays are opportunities for us to reflect and remember.

Take time this Thanksgiving to consider what makes life worth living for you. Spend time with the why rather than the how.

Each of us needs to take a deep breath this week and remember for what and for whom we are truly grateful.

When will we explore what Thanksgiving is all about today?

How will we practice what Thanksgiving is all about this week?

[Image by timsackton]

Greg Richardson is a spiritual director in Southern California. He is a recovering assistant district attorney and associate university professor, and is a lay Oblate with New Camaldoli Hermitage near Big Sur, California. Greg’s website is and his email address is

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