Thankful. Or is it grateful?
I have been watching my Facebook feed with great interest the past few days as people debate being ‘thankful’ versus being ‘grateful’ – a semantic back-and-forth that I have taken more than cursory interest in.
It is the writer and English teacher in me.
Curiosity drove me to Merriam-Webster where I found that being thankful and being grateful have some very unique connotations, to wit:
To be thankful is to be conscious of benefit received.
To be grateful is be appreciative of benefits received.
The distinctions are important. Am I conscious of the blessings in my life? I hope so. Am I grateful and appreciative? That is something I ponder.
Consciousness is pretty straightforward, and my list is a lengthy one starting with my loving, healthy family; wife, sons, daughter, son-in-law and grandson. My extended family and in-laws. Friends old and new. Health, shelter, a full pantry and refrigerator. For a loving G-d, for a country where I can live freely. These are some of the people and things I am conscious of and thankful for, but rarely think of in such terms as thankfulness. Except on days like today.
Am I appreciative of all of these things? Probably not as much as I could or should be.
Bigger picture. There is much, as Americans, that we are conscious of, and should be thankful for, but I think take mostly for granted. In 1943 Norman Rockwell painted an iconic series of oil paintings entitled The Four Freedoms; Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Worship, Freedom from Want, and Freedom from Fear. Those are enduring things that resonate (or at least, should) more strongly today than ever.
There is nothing new or unique about these musings on what to be thankful for; every fourth Thursday of the year we are awash platitudes from various points and perspectives, Hallmark cards to social media, everything in between. Hence the debate I alluded to: are we thankful, or grateful.
Thankful or grateful? We all know we should be one or the other for something or another – our culture tells us so every November.
Still, when it comes right down to it…
I am grateful today for my life, what it is today and what it was and who it was that got me here: family, friends, mentors, past and present. I am grateful today for the memories of those who have been a part of my life at every step, but who are no longer here physically. I am thankful to live in a time and a place where technology allows old friends to find me, new friends to enrich my life. The ability of all of them to reach out in support – theirs and mine. To ask for and offer advice and comfort, to share a laugh or kind word when most needed.
I am grateful and thankful for the love of family. They help teach me humility, to see beyond myself.
I am thankful for the children in my classroom, for they teach me patience and understanding.
I am grateful and thankful for friends who are hurting and who have suffered loss, for they teach me compassion, and allow me to share it.
I am grateful for the gift of discernment, which allows me to see where I can do better, understand that I always can.
Mostly I am thankful and grateful for G-d’s grace in my life, as all of the things I am thankful for and appreciative of stem from that grace. I am happy and blessed to be who I am, where I am today. Happy Thanksgiving, indeed.
Thanksgiving 2014, 2015