Thanksgiving in the United States is a day Americans have set aside to gather with loved ones, to feast, to be mindful of the gifts, both large and small, that they are grateful for, and to celebrate the value that gratitude itself brings to their lives.
On a sunny but chilly November afternoon on New York’s Fifth Avenue, Kathy Forer gives a little shiver as she offers some heartfelt thanks just days before Thanksgiving.
“I’m grateful for sweaters and scarves and mittens and gloves and hats,” she says, adding “fresh air” into the appreciation.
Nearby, 16-year-old Robert says he is looking forward to the traditional meal but that's not all.
“It’s great to come together as a family and eat together.” That’s a rare treat in his family members’ busy lives he says. Gratitude for family and friends is a cherished value in his home. “And I hope to pass that on to whoever I can. It’s nice having people that care about you. It’s a big thing in life.”
A young woman named Rena also expresses thankfulness for her parents and siblings. ”I know they will always be there for me, and I know that I have a place to go and food to eat, and not many people have that.”
Rena says gratitude for these things has led her to feel compassion for others. “And that’s why I want to, like, give back. That is why I am trying to raise money for these children that I teach after school and I am trying to get them presents.”
At a nearby street fair, a rural Ulster County New York resident named Rob, who is selling cups of hot homemade apple cider to passersby, says he’s thankful for his connection to the natural world:
“When you sit next to a stream and you listen to it bubble away, it seems like all your problems, they are kind of like gone, or you hear the wind in the trees or walk in a snowstorm. Those are such beautiful things that go right to our soul.”
Like many Americans who have lost their jobs due to America’s ailing economy, Nancy has battled with mood swings in 2010. Still, she finds solace in keeping what she calls a “gratitude journal,” where she jots down all the little things she can be thankful for.
”I was sitting in Nussbaum’s [cafeteria] up the street having coffee. And I love going there and just having coffee and I thought I was grateful for that place being there. Or for my kids. Or the fact that someone said something nice that day that I was glad to hear.”
Nancy adds that everyday life is full of small gifts that can elude awareness. “But when you start to write, it starts to come out. It makes me realize that I have more in my life to be happy about than I thought I did.”
For his part, Kyle, an art teacher, prefers to cultivate a thankful attitude for whatever life has in store. ”I’m grateful for every day, man,” he says with grin. “Every moment is new and exciting. There is always something good, something bigger and better coming my way, and coming everyone’s way.”