Counselor's Corner: Reasons for being thankful

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Fred Cavaiani

In two days, we celebrate Thanksgiving. We want to return home and celebrate with family and friends as we gather for dinner. This National Holiday of Thanksgiving creates in us an awareness of being thankful for what we have. It can be easy to journey through life without an attitude of gratitude for what we have. This day reminds us to be thankful for so many things. Family, friends, security, living in a free country, nature, beauty, a faith, and an awareness of a personal relationship with God or a positive philosophy or theology of life are all thoughts that can come to mind on this day of gratefulness.

Psychologically and spiritually, when we are consciously grateful, our mind and heart open up to a positive attitude about life. A healthy person needs to have this attitude of gratefulness. When I am consciously grateful, negativity and criticism disappear because they have no room to exist. Gratitude doesn’t allow for negative attitudes and judgmental attitudes toward other people. When I am grateful, I look for goodness everywhere. Gratitude directs my viewpoint into seeing goodness everywhere. It also opens my heart to receive goodness and experience goodness throughout the day. When you look at the next person you see or the next thing you see with a grateful heart you will experience a goodness there and find yourself feeling light-hearted.

The first Thanksgiving originated in October in this New World. It lasted three days. Ninety Native Americans and 63 pilgrims were in attendance in the present regions of Plymouth, Massachusetts. It was a celebration of good harvest both for Native Americans and Pilgrims who came together in unity to be thankful.

Maybe this lesson of the first Thanksgiving is something we all need. To be grateful and sit alongside others who look differently and be thankful together for what we all have together: food, fresh air, the earth we all share, family, friendships, and the ability and willingness to get along together and share what we have with each other. I saw a post on Facebook sent to me by a friend that said: “If you are more fortunate than others, build a larger table not a taller fence.” At times we can all build a fence between us and others by our negative attitudes and condemnations. Being grateful opens our hearts to share our tables of emotional, physical and spiritual nourishment with others.

Every time I find myself looking at something with a grateful heart, negativity seems to disappear. Every time I invest in condemning others, my heart seems to hurt and my attitude becomes overly invested in how I think things must be. This prevents me from investing in the goodness that is all around me and seeing the goodness in every person and in every aspect of creation.

The world needs thankful people. We have a national holiday to remind us of this. Thanksgiving is a day of gratitude and love for one another. Embrace everyone on this day with a grateful heart. Eat your Thanksgiving dinner being grateful for the food and for everyone at your table. If you have to eat alone because of circumstances, be grateful for yourself. Thanksgiving opens our hearts to something profound. It allows us to experience God, whomever God might be for you. It gets us out of self-pity and self- absorption. It helps our hearts to connect with each other.

Our world is very small. We are all on this journey together. Families need each other. Friends need each other. Nations need one another. Creation needs our love and respect. We are all one family. Gratefulness helps us to realize this. Whether your favorite football team wins or loses, enjoy watching it with others and enjoy eating with others with an open, grateful, loving heart and mind. Over four centuries ago, Pilgrims and Native Americans shared gratefully what they had with each other. Do the same this Thanksgiving. And let your love shine brightly with each other. We all need more of it. Be grateful and more love will enter your life.

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Fred Cavaiani is a licensed marriage counselor and psychologist with a private practice in Troy. He is the founder of Marriage Growth Center, a consultant for the Detroit Medical Center, and conducts numerous programs for groups throughout Southeast Michigan. His column in the Legal News runs every other Tuesday. He can be reached at 248-362-3340. His e-mail address is: Fredcavi@yahoo.com and his website is fredthecounselor.com.