Be thankful. You hear that a lot this time of year. Be thankful for your next meal, a roof over your head, the people that love and support you. Good advice. But what does being thankful look like? Do you say a prayer for the world’s hungry before you launch into your appetizers? Do you send a donation to local food banks? How do you know when you’ve been sufficiently “thankful?”
Suppose you invite me to dinner at an expensive restaurant. I show up with a specially engraved plaque thanking you for this wonderful gift you’ve bestowed. I climb atop the table and give a heartfelt speech about your generosity. Other diners stand and applaud, tears in their eyes. Then everyone sits back down, life resumes. And by the time the food has arrived, I’m lost deep in my cell phone, absently shoving food in my mouth while catching up with Taylor Swift’s latest vacation photos. No matter how large the engraved “thankfulness” plaque, are you going to feel that I truly appreciate this meal?
Being thankful isn’t about saying thanks. It’s not even about “remembering the less fortunate.” Being thankful is about paying attention, giving 100% of your awareness to the moment at hand. To appreciate a meal means you pay attention to the food, the company, the details of your immediate experience in the Here and Now. It means sharing a real experience with someone rather than the idea of an experience, or the social media representation of an experience.
Let this holiday season remind you to fully engage in your life, to be actively thankful for your life, whether you’re sitting down to a meal with loved ones, stuck in rush hour traffic, or following Taylor Swift on Instagram.
About the Author: James Robbins is a licensed professional counselor, published author and co-owner of Dallas Whole Life Counseling. He has over 15 years of experience helping people in various life stages that come from a wide variety of cultural, economic and family backgrounds. Learn more about his background by clicking here.