Bob Denny: Ideas for a happier Thanksgiving

Published: Friday, November 15, 2013 at 2:20 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, November 15, 2013 at 2:20 p.m.

Thanksgiving is coming soon. What does Thanksgiving mean to you? What would you like it to mean? How about trying something different?

When the early English settlers came to the new world in the 16th century, everything in their lives was new and different. I'm sure they struggled to find ways to raise crops and livestock, hunt and trap, gather, and feed themselves. The ways of farming and horticulture were half-a-world different from that in which they were accustomed.

How would you feel, suddenly cast into basically a pre-agricultural/pre-farming age? The few plants and animals they were able to bring must have had serious problems, adapting to the new land. When the colony survived the first year, and there was a glimmer of hope that they might just make it work, imagine how relieved and thankful they must have felt! The early Pilgrims were a religious group, so I'm sure they prayed.

Trade has always been a natural activity when different cultures meet, and history tells us that they soon began trading with the native people. But I think they also had another reason to trade: Because they felt thankful, they were happy to share their joy and success with the friendly natives, who they called “Indians” (because of the biggest geographical misunderstanding in history! They still believed they had reached the shores of the far East.) They learned about corn, gourds and other foods.

Jump ahead to the 21st century. As a people, we still have the embers of those feelings of success and thankfulness. Do we still appreciate the sharing that those settlers felt? Do we still make it a time of sharing? Who do we share it with?

Most of us spend some special time with those close to us— your marriage partner, your children or parents; and lots of folks get together with extended family, relatives, and friends. Some people don't have families living nearby, or don't have many friends. We move around a lot. Some are in living arrangements like student housing, nursing homes, veterans' homes, retirement homes, or assisted living facilities.

Still others may spend the season in homeless shelters, a hospital or hospice, or in the street! Some are homebound, due to physical limitations or illness. Groups of people may not socialize together because of geography, economic status, religious denomination, ethnicity, race, or other factors.

What can you do? This Thanksgiving, how about feeling that spark of thankfulness, appreciation, sharing, and inclusion of everyone, in whatever celebrating you do? Who can you think of that you could include this season? Can you find a way to bring them into your day?

There are those who would be much happier sharing Thanksgiving with you and yours, than being alone. Could you serve a meal at a shelter, or a soup line? You could visit a veterans' home, a hospice, or a senior center. Make that call. We're all in this life together. Make it a happy and meaningful Thanksgiving!

Bob Denny is a licensed mental health therapist in Florida who teaches psychology and human growth and development at Florida Gateway College.

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