The Gift of Gratitude: How to Have a Truly Happy Thanksgiving
by Daniel Kuehn
It’s Thanksgiving Day!
What better time than now?
You’re sitting at your kitchen table with family members and friends, enjoying some turkey and stuffing. There are many things you could be thankful for this holiday season—a new job, a promotion, or even just the fact that you have someone to spend it with.
But what if there was another way? What if you were able to say thank you without having to go out and buy something?
What if instead of spending money on gifts, you spent it on yourself?
That’s exactly what I’m going to do today. Today I’m going to share with you how I’ve learned how to truly appreciate my life every day. And when the holidays come around again next year, maybe then we’ll see if this method really works for me…or not. Either way, thanks for reading!
I’m going to start off by sharing with you a story from my own life. It’s one that I think illustrates the concept of gratitude quite well. If you feel like your life isn’t worth living, this might make you want to stop reading right here. But don’t worry; I promise it will all make sense after you read on…
A Long Time Ago…
“Hey, Suzy!” A voice calls out to me from across the room. I look up from my plate of food and search for the source. That’s when I realize it’s Mark, waving to get my attention.
He and I have been neighbors for as long as I can remember. Almost every day after school, we’d meet up with each other to play our favorite game: Creatures and Castes. He was always the Emperor, and I was always the Glorious Malakian Empire.
“Come on! Let’s go to your house and play!” He says.
“But, I’m eating…” I whine, wishing he would just let me enjoy my meal in peace.
“Oh, come on! Our house is so much better to play at!” He insists. “I’ll let you be the Empire today.”
I sigh a breath of relief. “Okay, fine. Let’s go.” After saying goodbye to my parents, we leave.
As I follow Mark to his house, a strange feeling creeps over me. There’s something about him that makes me feel uneasy. But I don’t know why I feel this way; after all, he’s almost like a brother to me. We did almost everything together.
Once we reach his house, we go into his room and he turns on his X-box. I decide that today I will be the Empire, since he let me earlier. He always lets me do what I want…
There’s something not right about that. After playing for about an hour, I decide that it’s time to go home.
“I have to go now,” I say as I get up from the couch.
He doesn’t even turn to look at me. “Okay, see you later then.”
Something felt off about the way he said that. It’s like he didn’t even care if I was there or not. I feel a tear come to my eye…
No, I must be overthinking this. We’ve been friends for so long, of course he still wants me to be there! Without another word, I quickly leave the room and head home.
The next day, I decide to meet Mark at his house again after school. Except this time, he doesn’t seem to excited to see me. In fact, it’s almost like he doesn’t want me around at all. I don’t understand what I did wrong…
“Hey, Mark!” I say as I enter his house. He sits on the couch playing his game, but doesn’t even turn to look at me. My heart sinks…
I’ve never seen him act this way before. “
He finally turns and looks at me with a blank stare. “
What do you want?”
I don’t understand why he’s acting this way.
Is it something I did?
Maybe he’s angry at me for doing something wrong… I mean, I can’t think of anything that I did though. “Uh, nothing… I just wanted to see you.”
“Well, you saw me. Now leave,” he says in a cold voice.
“But, uh… We’re friends…” My voice starts to crack.
No, I won’t cry. I won’t let him see me upset. Without saying anything else, I turn around and quickly run out of the house.
I don’t want to go back there… Not after how Mark treated me. I feel so confused, like my whole world has been turned upside down.
Why is he being so mean to me all the sudden?
We’ve been friends for so long, I can’t believe it. Tears stream down my face as I run to my house. The entire world feels like it’s crashing down around me…
To my surprise, Mark is there, in front of the house. I don’t understand why though; he lives across the street.
Why is he here and not at his own house?
The expression on his face shows fear and panic. I’ve never seen him look this way before…
Why are you crying?”
W-w-why d-did you s-s-say those things to m-me, and make me l-leave?”
I say between sobs.
He shakes his head in confusion. “I didn’t make you leave. You left because you wanted to.”
“N-no… Y-you did something.”
“It was all you, Noah. I swear to God.” He takes a step towards me. “
What’s gotten into you?
You’re acting really weird right now, even for you.”
“I’m d-d-doing nothing. Y-you’re the o-one acting w-weird…” I look up at him; his face seems so out of place.
The Mark that I know would never act like this. Something is terribly wrong… “I think… I think you should go h-home. You don’t look very well.”
“Maybe you’re right,” he says, taking a step back. “I’ll talk to you later. Feel better, Noah. I’ll see you at school.
I watch as he turns and walks away, the weight of the bag he’s carrying pulling him slightly to the side. I still don’t understand what exactly is going on, but at least Mark seems a little more like himself now.
I head into my house and plop down on the couch. My encounter with Mark has left me mentally exhausted, and all I want to do now is stay inside and rest. Maybe if I’m lucky, this will all just go away…
I wake up to my mother calling me for dinner. She repeats herself several times before I finally answer.
“I’m not hungry, Mom,” I say, groaning as I stretch. My eyes are still heavy with sleep.
Why did I sleep so long?
School started hours ago…
“Well, you better hurry up and get ready for school! You don’t want to be late on your first day.”
Oh, yeah. That’s right. I forgot to set my alarm last night, so I’m already running late. I quickly get up and head to the bathroom to take a shower. As the warm water soaks my body, a thought occurs to me: today is also the first day of school for Mark as well. I wonder how he’s doing…
My mother has already left for work by the time I finish getting ready. I find a note on the fridge telling me that there’s sandwich in the freezer if I get hungry at lunchtime. Underneath the note is said sandwich, wrapped in plastic. I take it with me as I leave the house.
I’m still bothered by what happened yesterday with Mark. I can’t get his face out of my mind.
Why did he look so different? And why did he act so strange?
Maybe I should ask him about it when I see him…
But, I remind myself, that’s only if I see him. The thought that he could be gone forever is still looming over me.
I arrive at school and begin looking for him. Maybe he’s waiting for me somewhere. Or maybe I should be searching for his house so I can go there instead. I don’t have a phone number or any other way of contacting him…
I walk through the front gates and begin looking through the crowd of people. It would be much easier to find him if I knew what he was wearing, but all I can remember is that gray hoodie of his…
I turn around at the sudden sound of my name. It’s Julia, waving and running up to me. Her long, dark brown hair is tied into a ponytail.
Why is she talking to me?
I thought we got rid of her…
She reaches your, takes you hand, and begins swinging it back and forth. A huge smile is spread across her face. I think I’m beginning to understand why Mark doesn’t like her…
So, you and Mark are friends now?”
she asks excitedly.
Sources & references used in this article:
The Divine Gift of Gratitude by PTS Monson – 2010 – media.ldscdn.org
Reflection for Thursday, November 24, 2011: Thanksgiving Day (USA). by DP O’Reilly – 2011 – dspace.creighton.edu
Thanks!: How the new science of gratitude can make you happier by RA Emmons – 2007 – books.google.com
Gratitude as a human strength: Appraising the evidence by RA Emmons, CA Crumpler – Journal of social and clinical psychology, 2000 – Guilford Press
Gratitude as a psychotherapeutic intervention by RA Emmons, R Stern – Journal of clinical psychology, 2013 – Wiley Online Library
Gratitude and the science of positive psychology by RA Emmons, CM Shelton – Handbook of positive psychology, 2002 – books.google.com
The psychology of gratitude by RA Emmons, ME McCullough – 2004 – books.google.com
Is gratitude a moral affect? by R Emmons – Greater Good Magazine, 2010
The blessings of gratitude: A conceptual analysis by ME McCullough, SD Kilpatrick, RA Emmons… – Psychological …, 2001 – psycnet.apa.org