Reflections on Seven Decades of Thanksgivings

As Thanksgiving approaches, I’m always reminded to be grateful for the bounty of my life. As I’ve accumulated Thanksgivings, and accumulated stuff, I’ve learned that the stuff continues to fade in importance. Friends, family, work and health represent life’s true riches. What I once considered my good fortune in business pales in comparison with these four gifts.

I was reminded of this by a brother who, in the throes of chemotherapy, shared a surprising conclusion with me. He said that fighting brain cancer had become one of the best things ever to happen to him. Stunned, I asked why. He responded simply, “because I’ve learned to appreciate every day, every person, every conversation.”

This Thanksgiving, I’m going to be thankful for more than just stuff – be it riches, accolades or achievements. My brother helped me see that a more lasting gratitude comes not from what we’ve received, but from what we’ve contributed to others through the bearing of burdens, through listening, and through kindness.

As a teacher, and a father, I have found this to be true. At this stage in life, I find myself looking backwards more than forward, and reflecting on as many valleys as peaks, and I’m more grateful to have been a father and a teacher than any other post or title I’ve ever held. It is through those roles that I have most often contributed to others, and what I’m most grateful for this Thanksgiving.

By Joel Peterson