Remembering to be grateful

Today we celebrate Thanksgiving. The Pilgrims first had a feast with the Wampanoag Indians celebrating a fall harvest. It was a beginning of two diverse groups coming together to celebrate a sense of gratitude for the blessings of creation. Then in 1863 President Lincoln declared a national day of Thanksgiving to be celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November. In the midst of a Civil War the president declared a national day of Thanksgiving. What wisdom and spiritual depth to ask people to be grateful in the midst of a war.

Psychologists have stated in their research that grateful people live longer, have less stress, enhance their physical wellbeing better than others, and reduce resentments and depression. Grateful people are also more likeable. Maybe President Lincoln realized something very profound when he declared a National Day of Thanksgiving during the Civil War in 1863.

Thanksgiving comes from two words "thanks" and "giving." When I am grateful I am usually giving someone else a gift of kind words. That someone else can also be God. It can be a spouse, a friend or a stranger. But whoever we are thanking, the gift is also to ourselves. When we have an "attitude of gratitude" we start looking at life in a positive manner. We lighten our load in life because instead of seeing life in a negative manner we discover good things all around us.

Start this moment experiencing where you are. Be thankful for your clothes. Be grateful for being able to take another breath. Look at your family and friends and be grateful for them. When I am grateful for someone or for something I begin to look positively and cheerfully at people and the things around me.

Every moment of life is a gift. People who realize this become emotionally successful in life. Quite often grateful people become very successful in life because their success is not based on how much they accumulate but on how much they are grateful and how giving they are to other people. When "thanks" and "giving" are combined we give up negativity and become open to wisdom and new ideas. Our ego becomes smaller so we can learn from each moment and from each person. When our egos become enlarged we block wisdom and love from our lives.

Wise people are grateful people. Loving people become grateful people. In the action of giving, a thankful attitude begins to surface. It is no accident that Thanksgiving is formed from these two words of "thanks" and "giving."

Imagine what would happen if we became grateful throughout the day. When I am grateful for what I see, what I eat, the friends in my life, my spouse and children, my work, my country, this present moment, I begin to let go of tension. My worries disappear. I become attentive to enjoying this present moment. An "attitude of gratitude" frees me to start enjoying life even in the midst of pain, struggle and suffering.

There is always goodness in the present moment.

Be grateful each moment of today. Look around you and give thanks. Tell your family how grateful you are for their presence in your life. Tell your friends how grateful you are that they are in your life. Look around you throughout the day and say a short prayer of gratitude to God for your existence. Appreciate the moment. Even if the Lions lose on Thanksgiving Day, appreciate that you can watch the game. Use this day for a beginning of thankful awareness throughout each day. Life is a gift. See the good things all around you and in each moment.

Whether someone is rich or poor, an attitude of thanksgiving can always be activated. This attitude will disarm us and help us to live in hope. It will bring a sense of joy and peace to the present moment.

"Thanks" and "giving" will always free us from becoming too attached to the past or too concerned about the future. "Thanks" and "giving" will help overcome war. It will defeat prejudice and discrimination. It will cause us to share what we have with others. "Thanks" and "giving" will deepen our spiritual life. It will help us become comfortable with our emotions and embrace our pain and our joy. "Thanks" and "giving" is a wonderful gift for us and for the whole world.

When life becomes difficult I am going to embrace "thanks" and "giving." If I want to find God and discover meaning in the present moment, I will make a determined effort to put my arms around "thanks" and "giving." Remember, Thanksgiving Day was proclaimed in the midst of a Civil War. War, both internally and externally cannot continue to exist in the midst of "thanks" and "giving."

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

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 programs for groups throughout Southeast Michigan. He can be reached at 248-362-3340. His e-mail address is: and his website is

Published: Thu, Nov 27, 2014