Thanksgiving is a good time to remember that gratitude should be a way of life and not just a day.

Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays, filled with memories of large family gatherings at either of my grandparents’ homes in Alva, Oklahoma. Over time, those large gatherings have decreased in size until, for the last five or six years, it’s simply spent with my mother, surviving grandmother, wife, and I. I like Thanksgiving is a relatively low-stress holiday in which expectations are readily met. Even if the turkey doesn’t turn out, you can always count on the sweet potato casserole, stuffing, pumpkin pie, or other favorite Thanksgiving food. Now that the holiday has come and gone with the chaos and credit crunch--for many, at least--of Christmas looming on the horizon, I thought it was a good time to reflect upon what I am thankful for.

First of all, I am thankful for my family. I realize that the traditional family is struggling today. The two-parent family with children at home is, unfortunately, becoming less and less common. I am grateful to have been raised in such a family. My parents’ marriage didn’t survive many years past the empty nest, but I’m glad that it made it that long. I’m also grateful for good memories of a stable family life while growing up in a small town.

Beyond my immediate and living family, I am thankful for my ancestors, who are a part of who I am today. As family trees stretch out across the centuries and into the present day, each of us represents a branch on that tree. Our family heritage connects us to something larger than ourselves, something that includes all of our progenitors, past and present, and shapes who we are, even if in subtle ways. As my brother used to say while he was still living, “Blood runs deep.”  I am thankful for the willingness to step into the unknown that characterized many of my ancestors, a characteristic that placed my mother and my father in the same town, where they met and were married.

I am also thankful for the opportunity the holiday season provides to reconnect with loved ones, friends, and family. I truly enjoy sending and receiving Christmas cards, catching up on each others lives as we share our joys and our sorrows. It’s probably my favorite part of Christmas. I strive to avoid getting caught up in all of the materialism of the season and am truly thankful when I reflect upon Christmas and its true purpose:  celebrating the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Simultaneously, on the secular side, I recognize the truth inherent in a Garrison Keillor quote I recently read: “A lovely thing about Christmas is that it's compulsory, like a thunderstorm, and we all go through it together."

While it’s easy to bemoan whatever our current set of circumstances might be, the reasons to be thankful are really too numerous to mention. I am always grateful to receive a Thanksgiving “jolt” and reminder to look beyond myself and recognize that the world is filled with many small wonders. There are so many things that we daily take for granted. It’s good to pause for a moment and express our gratitude. Whether it’s the ability to open our curtains on a crisp fall morning and behold a beautiful sunrise highlighted by birdsong or whether it’s the health and strength to walk a mile or two in Lemon Park, we all have a reason to say, thanks for giving me another day.

Personally, I’m thankful for the delicious and savory Thanksgiving dinner we feasted upon last week and are still enjoying, at least for a few more days.

So, sign me up for thanks giving. I’ll keep striving to keep my eyes open to the many reasons there are to be grateful. Oh yes, I’ll also remember to bring a loaf of fresh-baked bread and a good appetite. But, please, only a small spoonful of cranberry sauce. I’m saving room for dessert.