|synonyms for gratitude:||gratefulness, thanks, appreciation, recognition, acknowledgment, credit, regard, respect, grace, honor, praise, responsiveness... thanksgiving|
A silly trick that high school extemporaneous speakers used when faced with a topic for which they had only thirty minutes to prepare a seven minute speak was to look in the thesaurus for inspiration. It didn't always work, but sometimes it provided useful ideas. Since I was having trouble figuring out how to write our Thanksgiving post this year as I was 'fresh out of ideas,' I went ahead and gave that old trick a try. The result? Well, you see some of the words above and I was actually a bit surprised by some of them. But, once I thought about each word a little bit more, I saw exactly why they were a synonym. I also saw clearly why gratitude, and the concept of thanksgiving, is something Tammy and I find so compelling for our lives. Gratitude is something that 'makes us tick.'
It Takes Recognition to Be Grateful
If you're going to recognize something or someone, you need to actually observe that which goes on around you in a meaningful way. It is so very hard to find the energy some days to look around and see the good things that are happening, especially when there are so many bad things grabbing our ears, eyes and minds and stealing our attention from worthy acts, natural beauty, kindness and love.
We have to take the time and make the effort to recognize those things that deserve our gratitude. The good news is that this is one thing that gets easier with practice. Did you recognize a piece of music that really moved you today? How about the design some ice crystals on the window pane made recently? Did you notice when a total stranger held the door open so you could go through with both arms full of groceries? Have you considered how much effort people who run food banks or community meals put forth on a regular basis? What about the small group of people who take on the responsibilities for those organizations you like to participate in when it is convenient for you?
Take a moment to recognize the things that are worthy of your gratitude and you might be surprised by how much you take for granted.
Slow Down for Appreciation
Recognition, by itself, is an imperfect synonym for gratitude because it only represents your own awareness that a good thing exists. For example, here are some pretty flowers. You can walk by them from location A to location B and a part of you will recognize that they are pretty. But, that doesn't mean you actually appreciate their beauty.
You see, appreciation takes a little bit of your time. And, sadly, time is something so many of us feel we have so little of. As a result, we barrel madly through our lives from place to place, trying to get it "all" done. When we finally do slow down, it is often because something bad has happened and we dwell on negative things. It is no wonder that we all struggle so much to balance out our struggles with something wonderful.. or even something that's just kind of nice. How can we expect to have a life balance if we are unwilling to take the time to appreciate the good stuff and we are too willing to wallow in self-pity or glory in the faults of others?
Take some time to smell the iris and listen to the goldfinches express pleasure that you planted sunflowers and left the stalks with seeds for them to explore and consume during the colder months. Take another good look at the shelves your Dad built for you some years ago that continue to serve the farm well. Read that passage in a good book just one more time.
Acknowledgement of Those Things You Appreciate
Gratitude is meant to be given and shared. If there is no acknowledgement of the things for which you are thankful, then you are missing out on a key part of the process. Certainly, some things a person might appreciate are not going to respond to your acknowledgement. However, Tammy and I have been known to actually applaud our fields on Frost's Eve (for example). In that case, it isn't so much for the plants, soil and critters that worked with us to produce tasty food as it is for us. It does not hurt for us to remind ourselves at that moment that we didn't do ALL of the work to cause our plants to grow and productive. We can't do it without pollinators, soil micro-organisms and Russell the Cucumber Frog (among others).
Our farm would not exist if it were not for the people who actually purchase vegetables, eggs and poultry products from us. Our farm would have difficulty producing these products if we didn't have local suppliers for feed (Canfield Family Farms) and seed (Seed Savers). We might not even raise poultry for meat if we didn't have a local processor we trusted (Martzahn Farms). Rather than make a super-long list here, please believe us that we recognize those who help make this farm work and we do our best to acknowledge what they have done to help us succeed.
It's About Respect
I have come to realize that respect is an important part of what makes us tick at the Genuine Faux Farm. Respect for other people. Respect for nature. Respect those who have gone before and those who follow. Respect for the creatures that live on and around our farm. Respect for our crops. Respect for all of the crafts that surround our professions. Respect for our professions.
And even some respect for ourselves.
Showing gratitude for the good things - and even some things we aren't feeling so good about at the time it happens - is part of showing respect. I am not talking so much about the small 'thank you' so many of us (myself included) have been trained to share with others either. While these are important in their own way, it is the practice of real gratitude for acts, things or people that deserve to be shown the respect that gratitude brings along with it.
Respect implies effort. Respect implies integrity. Respect implies quality. Respect implies growth and learning. Respect and gratitude walk hand in hand, but they can be demanding companions. No wonder we need to exercise our gratitude muscles!
Grace and Courtesy
Grace and the courtesy it entails are necessary because it is difficult to show true gratitude when there is a lack of civility. Grace implies tolerance for differences and acknowledgement that we don't hold all of the answers. I shudder to think how bad things would be if it were all left up to me. This is not just about manners, even though good manners are a good place to start. This is about offering understanding and forgiveness and accepting understanding and forgiveness offered.
Once again, we are approaching our favorite holiday - Thanksgiving. Most years, we try to write a thoughtful blog post that either reflects our gratitude or encourages us to exercise our gratitude. In fact, there are some very good posts from prior years out there that might be worth a read on your part - I know they have already done me some good as I worked to figure out what I should say this time around.
Tammy and I are grateful to our friends and family for their unconditional support. We cannot repay, we can only give thanks.
To all of the people who have supported us in this farming endeavor in big and small ways since its inception in 2004, we acknowledge your gift and hope that we have shown respect for those gifts by simply trying to do our best to do what seems like the 'right things' on our farm as best as we are able.
There is actually a TWO part post in 2014 that featured those things we were particularly thankful for at that time (many of which we are STILL thankful for now!). I have found writing the Thanksgiving post a bit more difficult some years, even neglecting to write one last year! It has nothing to do with being ungrateful and everything to do with wanting to do more than list things we for which we should be thankful. In 2015, I was struggling with some of the negative things that were going on in the world and found myself asking "What am I going to do about it?" That post is still one I make myself read every once in a while when I feel like I can't make a difference. The take away is that all of us have more power to make a positive difference than we give ourselves credit for. But, when I found myself feeling pretty down about the time Thanksgiving was rolling around again two years later (2017), I came to the realization that gratitude requires real effort but that effort is truly worth the reward.