If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough.
— Meister Eckhart
Here in the U.S., Thanksgiving will be celebrated this coming week on Thursday, November 23rd. This year our Thanksgiving coincides with Japan’s Kinrō Kansha no Hi, a national public holiday celebrated every year on November 23. Derived from ancient harvest festival rituals named Niinamesai, its modern meaning is more a celebration of hard work and community involvement, translated as Labor Thanksgiving Day. Other countries that celebrate Thanksgiving include Germany (first Sunday of October, essentially a harvest festival that offers thanks for a good year and good fortune) and Canada (Parliament made it a national holiday in 1879, declaring in 1957 that the holiday would be observed yearly, "A Day of General Thanksgiving to Almighty God for the bountiful harvest with which Canada has been blessed—to be observed on the 2nd Monday in October"). Grenada, Liberia, and The Netherlands also hold Thanksgiving celebrations.
Thanksgiving in the United States has a long history beginning in 1621 when the Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Indians shared an autumn harvest feast that is considered the first Thanksgiving celebration. For over 200 years, days of thanksgiving were celebrated by individual colonies and states. In 1827, magazine editor Sarah Josepha Hale began a campaign to establish Thanksgiving as a national holiday. Finally, in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln set the last Thursday in November as the official day for a national Thanksgiving observance. In 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt moved the holiday up a week, and in 1941 Roosevelt signed a bill that designated the fourth Thursday in November as Thanksgiving Day.
Whether we set aside a day for national thanksgiving or make being truly grateful a part of our everyday lives, it’s important to remember that being grateful for what we have now and have had in the past can make us feel better about ourselves, our lives, and our relationships.
Cicero said, “Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others.” There are times in our lives when we may feel more Grinch than grateful, especially when the stresses of every day living gather momentum and all but overwhelm us. However, acknowledging and expressing our gratitude can have a beneficial effect on our lives, relationships, and work.
What are you grateful for? This week let’s write about a specific thing for which we’re grateful. A French proverb tells us, “Gratitude is the heart’s memory.” Our first step in writing this week will be to remember—to look into our memories and to identify a single thing for which we’re especially grateful.
1. Make a list of things for which you’re thankful. Think in terms of people, health, work—all the things that are good in your life.
2. Choose one item from the list.
3. Free write about the item you chose.
4. Look at your free write and select images and details for your poem.
5. Draft your poem.
1. Your poem may be stichic (one stanza with no line breaks), it may be a formal poem, a prose poem, or your poem may take the form of prayer or a letter.
2. As you write, think about the reasons for your gratitude and show (without telling) what those feelings mean.
3. Dig deeply to reach beyond the specifics of your personal experience to the underlying universal subject with which your readers will identify. In other words, in this poem, move toward something larger than your personal experience.
4. You might address or dedicate your poem to a person for whom you're thankful.
5. Another possibility is to approach the flip side and write about a challenging time (or a time of adversity) that somehow led you to feelings of gratefulness (my mom used to say that good always comes from bad).
In the United States, November is National Native American Heritage Month, with that in mind (and considering the tradition of our first Thanksgiving with the Pilgrims and Indians), this example is a poem translated from a traditional Iroquois prayer.
We who are here present thank the Great Spirit that we are here to praise Him.
We thank Him that He has created men and women, and ordered that
these beings shall always be living to multiply the earth.
We thank Him for making the earth and giving these beings its products to live on.
We thank Him for the water that comes out of the earth and runs for our lands.
We thank Him for all the animals on the earth.
We thank Him for certain timbers that grow and have fluids coming from them for us all.
We thank Him for the branches of the trees that grow shadows for our shelter.
We thank Him for the beings that come from the west, the thunder and lightning that water the earth. We thank Him for the light which we call our oldest brother, the sun that works for our good.