At this time of year, many of us in the United States bundle up our favorite appetizers, biggest appetites, and strong opinions…and travel — near or far — to gather around a table with those we love for a Thanksgiving meal. In times of global unrest, national discord, and community divisions, this occasion can find our tables and bodies “loaded” with more than simply food.

In times of increased cultural tensions, how might we enter and embrace Thanksgiving with a hopeful, grateful heart? How do we gather around a table with people from whom we may feel painfully separated by opinions and ideology? How do we trust that we are not betraying our discontent when we focus on what is good, and worthy of our gratitude? Or betraying our optimism if we temper it when others don’t share it? Can we trust that if we focus on our appreciation for those with whom we break bread, we will not be compromising our concerns or values?

There is a practice to living gratefully — and it begins with slowing down to become deeply present to this moment and the experience that we occupy right now, recognizing its preciousness and impermanence. Grateful Living then asks us to notice that which is available to us, that which we appreciate, and that which we can acknowledge as treasured, including that which is challenging and difficult. And then, the practice asks us to actually identify the opportunities which exist for our action — acting on behalf of what we love, what we value, what we long for. In Grateful Living, we become responsible agents for making the world reflect our deepest cares and concerns.

The moments around the table that are most poignant and make our most meaningful memories are those when we recognize aloud our connectedness and the blessings of our lives in the face of all that is currently untenable.

In seeking to live gratefully around the table this Thanksgiving, we are not called to forsake our deeply-felt values or concerns, rather we are invited to also remember and reinforce our reasons for gratitude, allowing them to sit directly alongside one another like first cousins. And we are called to remember that as we take action on behalf of our values in the world, our effectiveness is only strengthened by having those actions emanate from gratitude for the gifts and connections in our lives.

This Thanksgiving, join us in committing to finding ways to feel connected; we all long to connect with each other, especially in the heart of hardship. Part of what can make this time so difficult is how separate we feel from one another. The moments around the table that are most poignant and make our most meaningful memories are those when we recognize aloud our connectedness and the blessings of our lives in the face of all that is currently untenable.

When we become present and tune into the value of our lives, we can see that the table is already set; replete with our shared humanity and an inextricable connection with the Earth, festooned with the magic and mysteries of body, mind and spirit, and adorned with the opportunity to learn, love, and serve. We need only slow down to note the invitation, let our attention focus on the opportunities at hand, and join the feast…linking hands with everyone around the table, and finding the shared heart and peace at the center of it all.

For your consideration, here are some simple ideas for ways that you can bring more peace and gratitude to your Thanksgiving gatherings:

  • Ask a Grateful Question of everyone. Some examples:
    • What are you grateful for in this moment, and why?
    • What do you treasure in your life these days?
  • Read a Poem which inspires and uplifts
  • Share a Blessing for the meal
  • Savor and celebrate the food on the table and the efforts of the people who made the meal possible. Share favorite tastes you notice, and/ or recipes.  

We wish you all a peaceful, connected and heart-centered holiday.

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Kristi Nelson

Kristi Nelson

About the author

Kristi Nelson is our Ambassador for Grateful Living and the author of Wake Up Grateful: The Transformative Practice of Taking Nothing for Granted. She served as Executive Director at Grateful Living from 2014 - 2022. Her life’s work in the non-profit sector has focused on leading, inspiring, and strengthening organizations committed to progressive social and spiritual change. Being a long-time stage IV cancer survivor moves her every day to support others in living and loving with great fullness of heart.