Babinec family cira 2004
As with so many other things that happened over 2020, this Thanksgiving is like no other we’ve ever experienced before.
With baby boomer parents now passed, my own tradition of a large, extended family gathering has not been an obligatory event – but truly a special family celebration that together with my six siblings, we all looked forward to combining our families each year.
Since we’ve chosen this year to celebrate at an individual, rather than combined family level, it’s a much quieter day that finds me reflecting about both Thanksgiving and the bigger picture of how gratitude shapes perspective well beyond the holiday.
We know origins of America’s first thanksgiving celebration trace back to the Pilgrims, but the official holiday wasn’t declared until the depths of the Civil War in 1863. This was a time of struggles with unspeakable tragedy prompted by political divisions which tore the fabric of our country apart.
While my own family has been spared the ravages of Covid-19, we’re sensitive to so many others who’ve suffered personal trauma and loss. And our just completed election has been the most divisive in memory, dividing even to a family level in ways we’ve never seen before.
I find this post from Leslie Danks Burke shares a Civil War era view with meaningful parallels to our situation today.
The Science of Gratitude
Early Roman era philosopher Cicero wrote about gratitude being more than “the greatest virtue,” it is also “the mother of all other virtues.”
Over the centuries since Cicero, many others have looked at the connection between our expressing gratitude and positive outcomes in our lives that may follow. Scholars have taken that to another level by looking to validate this connection through research based approaches such as you’ll find in this white paper on The Science of Gratitude.
A few mentions include:
- It’s easy to feel grateful when life is good, but when disaster strikes, gratitude is worth the effort
- The impact of gratitude on materialism and generosity
- A little thanks goes a long way
- Research by Adam Grant: Explaining why gratitude expressions motivate prosocial behavior
A lot to chew on for sure. But as I think back to the values my father helped instill in our family, the example he set in showing gratitude throughout his daily life was perhaps one of the most important things that has now been passed on to me and my siblings, and in turn to our next generation.
It will be a special part of our Thanksgiving dinner today to be reminiscing about my Dad’s expressions of gratitude, including through some challenging times for the family.
Writing this post also puts me on a committed path to being more explicit and consistent in my own expression of gratitude through what I do going forward.
Thanks to Patrick Riley for inspiration and sources on the Science of Gratitude
Kindness is another virtue that I’ve come to value over recent years. In times of trouble, unexpected acts of kindness would get me choked up. It’s a gift to be shared.