Thanksgiving editorial: Gratitude is the key to a happy life
(Today's editorial is edited from a Thanksgiving message first published November 27, 2014.)
We all know people who tend to see the sorrows but seldom the joys, who tend to blame others for every misfortune while never accepting responsibility when things go wrong.
These are not just negative people. They are unhappy people.
To be sure, life isn't always fair. It isn't always easy. No one makes it through without some share of hardship, pain and injustice. That's just an inevitable part of the journey.
But almost 2,000 years ago, the Greek philosopher Epictetus wrote, "It's not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters."
If we could leave only one piece of advice for our children, that just might be it.
Well, let's make it two pieces of advice and add this: Be grateful. Recognize all the blessings you have and give thanks for them. We aren't owed any of it. All of it is a gift.
In the end, it's not the blessings that make you happy; it's the thankfulness.
We repeat those words on this Thanksgiving Day because we believe so strongly in the message.
We're not going to kid here. Money brings luxuries and options and access that poverty withholds. Destitution imposes real hardships.
But the origins of Thanksgiving are steeped in hardship. Death and disease welcomed the Pilgrims prior to that first feast in 1621, and Abraham Lincoln established the holiday during a devastating civil war.
We know people of means who struggle despite their fortunes to find happiness. We know people beset by misfortune who nevertheless live their lives in joy.
If you want to be happy, look outward more, inward less. Recognize the kindness, the love, the good fortune, the glad tidings that surround you.
Every breath we take, every wonder we see, every hand we hold, every passion we feel, every curiosity we explore, every song we hear, every warm memory we hold, these are life's gifts, blessings more valuable than fame or accomplishment or wealth.
And all of us, regardless of our circumstances, are rich with these things. Be glad of them. Appreciate them. Give thanks for them.
Thanksgiving rituals vary. But whether you celebrate the day alone or as part of a large gathering, whether you build your observance around a feast or football or shopping or a movie or some combination, reserve the time to take stock of these blessings and give thanks.
Do so not just today, but every day. Build thankfulness into the fabric of your life.
If you want to be happy, be grateful.