Thanksgiving:  a time when Americans celebrate the success of our nation’s harvest by gathering around the dinner table and feasting.

According to Webster, thanksgiving is further defined as: “gratitude, appreciation, or thankfulness, which involves a feeling of emotional indebtedness towards another person; often accompanied by a desire to thank them, or to reciprocate for a favor they have done”.

Yet in considering all of those meanings, what does one do when Thanksgiving rolls around and a spirit of thankfulness is in short supply?

The last year and half of my life has overflowed with challenges and events that have slowed me down, knocked me off center, and certainly done nothing to encourage my overall sense of thankfulness. It’s been a pattern that, at times, felt like an inescapable life sentence. Yet each time I faced another difficulty, a loving family member or kind friend stepped forward to remind me, I still had much for which to give thanks.

To be sure, I didn’t always hear my rescuing angels’ hopeful messages. Yet with the advent of Thanksgiving I have been trying to encourage my heart and soul to enter into the spirit of the season—to find my way back to thankfulness. I began by writing an inventory checklist of good things in my life. Starting the list was easy.Heart & Soul: Thanksgiving Defined

This year, for the first time in thirteen years, my family will be reunited around the Thanksgiving dinner table. Four generations will descend upon my home packing their favorite foods and their holiday cheer for what is sure to be a memorable family gathering.

Item two is my family’s collective blessing of good health. This has been a touch-and-go issue for many of us over the last eighteen months, but these days, most everyone is fairly hale and hearty. I guess the old saying is true, that you don’t appreciate good health until you don’t have it.

Item three is the constant that keeps my life in focus no matter what might deter me—the love of my grandchildren. Their joyful caring knows no bounds and fills my heart whenever I see their tender faces and hear them call me, “Nana.”

Item four is the care and concern neighbors and friends have shown me over the last year, in ways large and small. Most surprising about this blessing is those who have given of their time and help at moments when it was most needed and completely unexpected.Heart & Soul: Thanksgiving Defined

Item five is the profound sense of compassion that my recent life challenges have instilled Only now do I truly understand the Native American wisdom about walking in another person’s shoes before judging them.

I have also come to fully realize that care and kindness should be the first response to anyone’s actions, regardless of the circumstances. It’s a way of life that offers comfort not only to those I encounter, but to my own spirit as well.

So, this list is now the core of my expanding thankfulness. As my life continues to evolve, I am grateful that such blessings have made my life worthwhile, even at times when it seemed much less.

For my nickel—-Thanksgiving in its purest form.

To purchase a signed copy of Heart & Soul, click here.