Around the Thanksgiving table one year, my guy, our two teenaged children, and my visiting father stared at me with wide eyes as I insisted that we take turns listing what we were thankful for.
My man, uncomfortable with such a request, began to clear the table while still seated.
Our daughter bubbled forth, like champagne from a shaken bottle, describing the blessings in her life: the Science lab (what can I say? she ended up teaching 6th grade Science!), her bedroom (she had an amazing view of the SF Bay), her plans to attend the Nutcracker ballet in two weeks.
Our son, usually the stoic of the family and non-emotional like his dad, peered solemnly around the table, breathed in deeply, and proclaimed, “Family.”
All grew quiet when it was my father’s turn. “You know what I have to say,” he claimed quietly.
With face crumbling, Dad’s soft cheeks grew red, his lips moistened, and his eyes searched mine for understanding. “I am thankful every day for my sobriety.” He began to cry without shame, and the wetness on my cheeks matched his.
I reminisce about that Thanksgiving list every year since.
What are we thankful for? The incredible feast at the table? The fact that Aunt Jean isn’t nagging Uncle Hal at the dinner table or that the neighbor next door didn’t bring over her always-burnt toasted-marshmallow sweet-potato casserole this year?
Or do we express a bigger gratitude? A bank loan to pay for the kids’ college expenses; cancer remission; recovery from surgery, addiction, or depression.
Whether our thanks this time of year are for the small blessing of a warm walk on fallen leaves or for the larger grace of a big problem nearly solved, we all should stop and contemplate not only what we’re grateful for, but appreciate what others are grateful for also.
As Atticus Finch says in To Kill a Mockingbird:
“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”
My dad’s Thanksgiving grace helped me realize how proud he was of his sobriety and how difficult it was for him every day.
My dad’s Thanksgiving grace helped me comprehend how much he loved us, and how that love helped him reach his sobriety goal…every day.
This year, when you ask each of the people around your Thanksgiving table what they’re thankful for, climb into their skin and feel their relief, love, grace, fear, pain, and joy.
Then, walk around in it.