November in America is not like many months anywhere else. We begin the month with the general election when candidates do their best to convince the voters of their fitness to fill the job by pointing out all the negatives of the other candidates. We end the month jostling fellow bargain hunters in the annual Black Friday shopping ritual in the effort to get to the one television set that is 90% off before anyone else. And in between we are exhorted by countless “challenges” to express our gratitude. It’s no wonder we need daily prompts to remind us of all we have for which we are grateful.
Indeed we have much and we are grateful. We have health, food to eat, clothes to wear, friends and family who love us. And then we don’t have health, our cupboards are bare, and we are alone. Yet, even so, we can be grateful.
Gratitude is not, and should not, be an exercise is saying thanks for what we have, for in truth we will not always have. We should be expressing thanks because we are, because even when we do not have, we always will be. Everything we ever have had and everything we ever have hadn’t had gone into making something of us. They were the pieces of us, the ingredients in the recipe so to speak. It takes a person to measure those ingredients, to mix and blend them and see they are prepared in way others can enjoy them. From our earliest day, our earliest moments, there have been people molding us into the who we are now.
In his acceptance speech for the Lifetime Achievement Award, bestowed to him at the 24th Annual Daytime Emmy Awards in 1997, Fred Rogers said, “So many people have helped me to come here to this night. ... All of us have special ones who loved us into being.” What a wonderful way of thinking of how we have become who we are. We have been loved into being. Mr. Rogers didn’t thank the Academy for the award. He thanked those who made his a life that had led him to that place at that time. It isn’t about being thankful for things. It is being thankful for the people who make us the being that we are.
This month, during this time of expressing gratitude and saying thank you, yes you should be grateful for your good health, the food you eat, and the clothes you wear. And you should be grateful for friends and family. But don’t only say thank you for your friends and family, say thank you to your friends and family. Thank your friend being being like family to you, thank your family for being a friend to you, thank all of those who have loved you into being. Say thank you to them, because without them, you are not the who you are. Because without them, who are you? Because without them, what are you?