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How to Cultivate an Attitude of Gratitude

Thanking the One Who Made You

Thanksgiving is upon us. A time to gather with family and friends. A time to feast and give thanks. A time to listen as your college freshman Zinn-pills you on America’s bountiful harvest of genocide.

The importance of gratitude cannot be overstated. How can we cultivate it during the other 364 days of the year? Mindfulness is one popular suggestion. Savor each breath, each bite of food, and live in the moment. But despite its widespread reputation as a benign, “science-based” cure-all, mindfulness has its pitfalls. Beneath its updated, secular veneer it hides certain ancient assumptions about the nature of reality that could prove hazardous to your mental health. For further meditations on this subject, see this new piece in Return, which proposes that the self is a gift to be thankful for rather than a burden to be discarded.

Provisions

To promote Godly values, provide excellent coffee, and protect every beating heart. This is the simple yet powerful mission statement driving the people at Seven Weeks Coffee. Named for the stage of development at which a baby first has a detectable heartbeat (and is the size of a coffee bean), Seven Weeks donates ten percent of each sale to badly underfunded pregnancy care centers across the country. Their commitment to life extends to their treatment of the coffee farmers they work with. It’s all detailed with impressive transparency on their website.

Training

It’s no secret that the Thanksgiving table can be a microcosm of the political and ideological strife dividing our nation. One way to avoid turkey day trauma is to remind ourselves of what we have in common: the many things for which we can be thankful. Saying grace is a simple gesture that can nonetheless prove intimidating. Instead of freestyling it, avail yourself of these rules for How to Say Grace Amazingly Well, courtesy of Maralee McKee’s Etiquette School.

And if current affairs prove unavoidable anyway, consider steeling yourself against the polarizing, sensationalist tendencies of our media with a free subscription to Upward, a daily email dedicated to concise, fact-based coverage of the news.

Culture

Holiday perennial A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving is best enjoyed as a synchronous broadcast on the public airwaves. Unfortunately, this is no longer the world we live in. However, we must begrudgingly acknowledge that the current rights-holder, Apple TV+, has made the special free to watch from November 23 through November 27. Any harried host will relate to our hero’s grousing about “another holiday to worry about” as he faces culinary doom. They should also take solace in Marcie’s subsequent observation that “Thanksgiving is more than eating, Chuck.”

Exemplar

Like many of us, John van Hengel spent much of his life too consumed with his own problems to pay much attention to the suffering of others. In his mid-forties, divorce, career setbacks, and physical injury led van Hengel to seek a new start in Phoenix, Arizona. It was there that he observed a mother of ten rooting through the garbage behind a grocery store. Hunger, she explained, was not one of her worries; her children ate very well thanks to all the perfectly good food tossed in the trash. This gave van Hengel a simple yet revolutionary idea: why not create a central depository for the distribution of cast-off food to those in need of it? And so, in 1967, the food bank was born. The concept spread around the world, in large part because of van Hengel’s tireless efforts, which he kept up until his death at 85. The organization he started with three other volunteers persists today as America’s largest domestic hunger-relief network. What better day to support them–and honor van Hengel’s legacy — than Thanksgiving?


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