Thanksgiving, the forgotten holiday, sets tone for season

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My favorite holiday has long been Thanksgiving, a holiday that has already past and was, once again this year, lost in the shuffle between Halloween and Christmas.

I recognize that it might not suggest the same importance as holidays that reflect critical aspects of one's religious beliefs. And apparently, it does not create the same economic boon enjoyed by other holidays.

I believe this must be true, because it felt like many retailers forgot it this year.

Christmas decorations were displayed beside those for Halloween. Certain cable channels began their annual Christmas movie broadcasts before Halloween. Halloween greeting cards seemed to outpace those for Thanksgiving.

Nonetheless, Thanksgiving, while considered a secular holiday, touches my spirituality in very deep ways. A feeling of gratitude is, in my way of thinking, an important ingredient to developing a feeling of happiness.

"Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace and gratitude," Denis Waitley once said.

"Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend," observed Melody Beattie.

Sometimes, we have to work at this. For a number of years, I kept a gratitude journal and daily wrote at least five things for which I was grateful that day. It is a good exercise to help to develop a "gratitude habit."

Thanksgiving - the act, not the holiday - can be thought of as "gratitude in action" and is in part sharing what you can with others, and "paying it forward" so to speak, so that others may also feel the happiness of gratitude.

"As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them," John F. Kennedy said.

"Gratitude is the inward feeling of kindness received. Thankfulness is the natural impulse to express that feeling. Thanksgiving is the following of that impulse," Henry Van Dyke described.

While I know that many are suffering in numerous ways, my sincere hope is that the Thanksgiving holiday brought joy to all in some fashion - time with family and friends, a meal or two deserving of the harvest season and a way to share of your gifts with others who have needs.

And now is as good a time as any to reflect on the holiday past, the gifts we have been given, the needs of others and the myriad ways we can be of service.

I won't delineate the many community needs that could use your financial support and-or your volunteer time, but a quick contact with Community Foundation of the Lowcountry will help you to find ways to live generously, following that Thanksgiving impulse to pass positive feelings of joy and happiness on to others.

Thanksgiving must not be forgotten, but should drive our actions the entire year through.

The Community Foundation board and staff wish you a joyful season of gratitude in action.

Denise K. Spencer is president and CEO of the Community Foundation of the Lowcountry. www.cf-lowcountry.org

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