When we think of Thanksgiving, we imagine families gathering around well-appointed tables laden with traditional Thanksgiving fare. We think of football, of pumpkin pie, of relatives that we only see once or twice a year. It's a great time, but when we focus solely on the holiday's tendency toward excess, we miss the point. Turkey and pie and family gatherings are wonderful things, but I believe these traditions are wasted if we don't embrace the name of the holiday and really take it to heart. Thanksgiving is really an opportunity to express gratitude, to those around us.

There are plenty of reasons to cultivate gratitude in our lives. If you're a spiritual person, gratitude nourishes the soul, whether one is giving or receiving it. If you're a person of a more practical bent, gratitude is an amazing cognitive-behavioral tool that will improve your mental health, because one cannot experience gratitude without choosing positive, healthy thoughts over more negative ones. To be grateful is to acknowledge that you aren't entitled to the thing you're grateful for. What you are is the recipient of a precious gift of time and energy. It forces you to concentrate on the positive, rather than dwell on the negative, to celebrate what you do have instead of longing for what you don't.

Consider the turkey, its rich aroma wafting around the family dinner table. You can dwell on the high cost, on the stress of having a house full of relatives, the annoyance of Uncle Bob's unceasing political diatribe that would be inflicted upon someone else if it wasn't for that golden bird taking pride of place at the table's center. Or you could consider how much time and energy went into putting that bird where it is. A farmer looked after it, working every day to ensure that it reached maturity. There were processors and drivers and warehouse workers, grocers, all of whom had a hand in making sure that bird was available for you to put in your cart. Sure, they were doing it for money, but that money helped those workers put food on the table and a roof over their families' heads.

In the kitchen, someone took the time to prepare it, maybe using a recipe from a cookbook or a method passed down from previous generations. And while that was happening, someone took the time and energy to clean the house, to take out the best tablecloth and dishes, so that everyone could enjoy some time together. That turkey didn't get there on its own. It's there because people made a choice to put the needs of others before their own desires. When we think about the turkey like that, it becomes something entirely different. It isn't just a meal, but a display of sacrifice and cooperation and ultimately, love.

Let's all challenge ourselves to take Thanksgiving to heart. Let's cultivate gratitude for our loved ones, and for all the many blessings we have as Americans and residents of Grant County. The Chamber of Commerce is grateful for the support of all its members, and for all the workers who make our community such a vibrant and wonderful place to live.

Happy Thanksgiving, Grant County.

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