Thanksgiving. We all know it as a day of gratitude. That is the left side of the word. While the origin of the day goes back to 1536 during the reign of Henry the 8th, in this country we associate it most with the Pilgrims in Plymouth in the early 1600s who carved out a day from their rugged quest for survival to express their gratitude for making it that far. But, it is also about the right side of the word—giving. And, if you consider how most people spend the red-letter day, it should be labeled Thanks-eating or Thanks-TV watching.
At this special time of the year, I would like us to affirm the right side (pun intended) of the word “Thanksgiving”. What can you give to someone? Here are a few suggestions in the form of three stories.
Many people will travel this week for the holidays. I watched a young man give a $5 bill to the slightly stooped Asian woman in the airport who was cleaning the gate area where we all sat waiting to board our flight. He thanked her for her work, and she returned his “giving” with a Steinway smile that illuminated the surroundings.
I was in New Orleans to give a keynote speech. Leaving the hotel with the CEO of the company for lunch before my afternoon speech, I watched him stop and place a dollar in the cigar box of a homeless person on the sidewalk. When I questioned the wisdom of his charity, he smiled and unceremoniously said, “I am not here to judge; I am here to give.”
Sometimes the greatest gift can be the simplest. The Delta Airlines gate attendant announced before the boarding began, “Ladies and gentlemen. I have an announcement. This is a special smile flight. In addition to your boarding pass, we will need you to give us your best smile as you board. And, if you do not have a smile, we will be happy to give you one of ours. Welcome aboard!”
Happy Thanksgiving! Let it be a time of thanks for all you have been given. Let it also be a time of giving in a form that can make a difference in someone’s life.