Thanksgiving is something that often occurs in the heart after the fact. Throughout the day we are busy and in the moment we don’t realize what we’ve been given or have experienced. We press on. We move on from task to task, from conversation to conversation. But then in some quietness or stillness we remember something done or said, and we feel some sense of sorrow or joy: sorrow for what we could have done better or for what we shouldn’t have said; joy for what was done right or for what was said and received.
These reflections usually occur for me before bed, when, if I’m awake enough, I reflect back over my day. It is then that I realize that the things I am most thankful for are the things I had nothing to do with, moments out of my control, moments that were unplanned. I can plan a conversation but not an insight. I can plan to sit with my daughter but not the kiss she gives me. I can plan to watch a show with my family but not the spontaneous laughter that overflows together as we laugh at the sounds and faces we each make in such “inspired” moments. These are moments not bought, forced, or worked up.
There is something else, though, in thankfulness, that goes on a little deeper. We should be thankful for the things we can purchase or accomplish or create. But we are more thankful, inexpressibly and fully, for those things someone else has purchased or accomplished or created for us. We are moved because these things, their things, are blessings and gifts we didn’t imagine. Someone else imagined them for us. We were sometime, somewhere, somehow in someone else’s heart.
We grow thankful hearts when we begin to reflect and realize that often what we thought we wanted at the beginning of our day, to be productive and successful in doing things well and good, turned out to be something else entirely at the end. Thanksgiving caught up to us and reminded us that it is in essence relational. We cannot thank ourselves: we can only thank another.