Thanksgiving is a Choice, Not a Date

by: Clayton King

My wife and I have a love / hate relationship with two major holidays.  Her birthday is December 28, just three days after Christmas, so most of her birthdays growing up were overshadowed by the birthday of Jesus.  That means people forget her birthday, or forget to get her a gift or a card, or the worst: they tell her that her Christmas present is both her Christmas present AND her birthday present.  So while she loves the holidays, it can also be bittersweet when her family forgets her birthday until, well, it's her actual birthday and they're still hungover from Christmas overload.

My birthday is also conspicuously close to a major holiday.  I was born on November 27.  This means that once every seven years, my birthday falls on Thanksgiving.  That's all well and good, but it also means that every other year, my birthday falls during the week of Thanksgiving, when everyone is busy finishing exams and projects, getting ready to travel to see family or take advantage of Black Friday deals..and to be honest no one is really thinking about my birthday when it's my birthday.  Poor us, right? 

Sharie and I, however, have decided that even though our birthdays are overshadowed by much greater historical events (the survival of the Pilgrims and the birth of the Messiah), we choose to be thankful instead of sad, bitter, envious or upset.  

The reason is simple; Thanksgiving is a choice.

You get to choose your perspective on the life you've been given.  While it's easier on the front end to complain about all the things that haven't gone right in your life so far, the long-term consequences of negativity are enormous.  Studies consistently show that negative people who complain not only see the world through the worst possible lens, they are also unhappier, unhealthier, and more lonely than people who choose to be positive.

Here are some practical tips on how to approach the coming holidays with a better overall attitude:

  1. Make a written list of the blessings you take for granted every day (running water, clean water, hot water, flushing toilets, a refrigerator...just for starters).
  2. Make a list of 10 people that you will call or text just so you can tell them "thank you" for who they are and how much they mean to you.
  3. Pick a ministry, church, missions agency or charity that you believe in and choose to give them a generous gift for the sake of helping someone in need.   
  4. Decide to do one big thing for a family member or close friend over the next week (take them to lunch, make up their bed, do their laundry, or wash their car for example).
  5. Turn off technology.  I'm convinced that our constant connection to news and drama keeps us anxious and uptight most of the time.  Forget the election for a few days, stop checking Instagram every hour, and fight that urge to hop on Facebook and vent all your frustrations to your friends.  
  6. Get outside.  Take a walk.  Go to the park with your family.  Walk your dog.  Play pickup basketball or throw the football in the backyard.  Be thankful you still have the ability to run and jump and walk and play.

The strange irony is that we are more thankful when we choose to focus on what we have instead of what we wish we had.

Let's decide that Thanksgiving is more than a date on the calendar.  We can choose to make it our attitude, our disposition, our very identity.  We will be happier, and so will everyone that comes in contact with us.

Learn more about Clayton King.

I thank my God every time I remember you.  In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
Philippians 1:3-5