Don’t you think that first Thanksgiving was so simple? Or, maybe elemental is the better word. Participants were expressing thanks for their very survival. They had made it through that first year, with some important help from the natives. They had roofs over their heads and the bounty from a successful harvest was stored away.
For the vast majority of Americans, myself included, today is far from a celebration of survival. Since my means exceed my requirements and both food and shelter would seem to be all but assured, at least in the near term, fervency must spring from another fount of inspiration.
The Pilgrims giving of thanks may have been proceeded by a feeling of being grateful, that is they had a sense they were the recipients of something, partly earned, perhaps partly not. It is the “not” part that is the root of gratefulness. The notion that however good we have it, that it was not all of our own making, is for many the essence of a sense of gratitude. But, of course, it is more complicated than that.
The supreme requirement to embark on the journey of gratefulness is the ability to feel satisfied. This “satisfied” is the sense that we have enough to reasonably justify a sense of happiness and it is that feeling of well-being that allows us to feel grateful and to ultimately give thanks. To be caught up in a cycle of striving is the surest way to banish a sense of satisfaction. Enough is a wonderful word.
Satisfaction also requires personal awareness. We can be sure that on that first Thanksgiving, the pilgrims were not thinking 5 years out but were aware of their rather extraordinary fortune and were inclined to feel grateful for it, at that moment. Today, the notion of awareness, as in this moment, is washed away in the plague of complexity, technology and mostly false “connectedness” that is modern life.
I’ll take my own advice on the challenge of awareness and end this rumination on the giving of thanks by trying to picture the evening of that first celebratory gathering.
They were seated close together for warmth at the end of a spectacular late Fall day. The feast and the giving of thanks were over and the moment was turning inward. Talk was slowly dying down with ever lengthening pauses as they gazed quietly at the setting sun, evening shadows and the fiery embers, entranced by the sense that for this moment, all was well. And this was the moment that mattered.