Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday. I cherish it because it centers on a fundamental religious sentiment: gratitude. Gratitude is at the core of any mature spirituality.

Another reason I have always loved Thanksgiving is that it always involves sharing with people we love. Thanksgiving is about relationships that shape and support us. I remember so many Thanksgivings where we drove way too many hours in awful weather on treacherous, crowded roads—or endured flight delays and packed airports. It would have been so much more sensible to stay put. Yet the thought of missing Thanksgiving dinner with family and close friends was always more than we could bear.

When we reflect on what we are truly most grateful for, we realize that loving relationships are what matter most in our lives. When we gather in thanks and in love, we create a sacred space. We also touch base with something central, vital and important.

I now believe that gratitude involves a lot more than feeling thankful. When I think about how fortunate I am, I also realize that so very many people, through no fault of their own, are far less fortunate. Gratitude that has any depth and awareness leads to compassion for those who suffer, for those who are cut off from those they love.

Gratitude must not be blind or indifferent to others. There is too much poverty. There are too many families torn apart by violence, by war, by policies that rip families apart. There is so much needless suffering.

This Thanksgiving I pray that the spirit of gratitude fills our beings. May we celebrate and share joy with family and friends. I pray, too, that the spirit of gratitude moves us to feel compassion for others. And once compassion is deeply felt, it always leads to acts of generosity and healing.

May we realize how blessed we are. May we be a blessing to others.

Permanent link to this article: