[think kit. day twenty-four.] THE BED // CHICAGO — I’m not a huge proponent of the let’s-go-around-the-table-and-say-what-we’re-thankful-for ritual. I find it very forced and awkward, sometimes preachy and often egotistical.
In this tradition, it’s common knowledge that you should avoid going first and having to set the tone. Should you go for wit? Brownie points? Introspective wisdom? What if the path you choose catches people off guard — did you just ruin the Giving of the Thanks?
How about, “I’m thankful for my job and all the opportunities it affords me”? Simple, true, not controversial — unless someone at the table has just gotten laid off or really hates his or her job. Would that be insensitive? No, insensitive would be expressing gratitude for having unprotected sex and never getting pregnant, as genuine as that sentiment may be.
Yeah, you definitely don’t want to go first. But dear god you don’t want to go last. By then, four people will have mentioned family, friends, food, health — all things to be thankful for, but by the end of the round, if you name those things, people think you’re just taking the easy way out. Maybe you’re not thankful for all those things, but is it bad if you leave them out? People will read into your choices. What does it mean if you left health off the list? ARE YOU OK? What if you forget to say family? Don’t you love your family? WHAT’S THE MATTER WITH YOU?
That’s not to say I don’t believe in expressing gratitude. I just don’t think it’s done well by conventional means.
I grew up saying grace before meals at home, in school and, if we were with my grandparents, in restaurants. We said a pre-meal prayer in my sorority. Rarely, when I took part in these rituals, would I reflect on their meaning. It was nothing more than a habit — something you do without thinking.
At the same time, I found this piece from Ron Lieber (personal finance writer) quite interesting — that you should say grace with your kids, even if you’re not a person of faith. I like how the family he features merely says “gracias” before each meal. I actually went to a lunch the other day (after I started writing this post, coincidentally) where Lieber talked about his new book, “The Opposite of Spoiled,” and I also liked the idea toasting things we’re happy about as a way of expressing thanks.
I see his point about the value of gratitude. Heck, I agree. I think it’s important to focus on what sort of thankfulness you want to practice, as opposed to meeting people’s expectations of public displays of appreciation.
My two cents. Keep the change.
[think kit. dec. 24 prompt: What are you thankful for? Maybe it’s from this year – or maybe it’s something in your past that resonated with you recently. And – we hold people, places, and things in equal regard: a sense of gratefulness can take many forms.]