Gerwig 2013-11-06

Turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, green beans. Cornbread, sweet potato casserole, cranberry salad, pumpkin pie, cranberry sauce, pecan pie, rolls, and corn. Almost every year at Thanksgiving, these items grace our table. Yes, we typically over eat. Yes, we typically have leftovers for the better part of a week. The “menu” rarely changes though occasionally items are put on or taken off for a year or two for a variety of reasons. But essentially, it’s a huge feast. And yes, we have a lot to be thankful for in my family.

You may already be familiar with the US (& Canadian) holiday of Thanksgiving. If not, a high level summary is that it commemorates a time when (a few hundred years ago) Native Americans and “Pilgrims” came together to give thanks for the bountiful harvest of the preceding year. This was important for many reasons, not the least of which was that it helped ensure a higher survival rate through the winter.

My memories of Thanksgiving growing up are basically food, family, and giving thanks. Typically, everyone shared at least one major “thing” for which they were thankful during the feast. It has always been a great holiday for me. Family would come together and celebrate. It was a type of homecoming. Several generations would gather together, tell stories, pray, give thanks, and eat great food. What’s not to like about that!

Though it’s a few weeks before Thanksgiving, I started thinking about the holiday recently as the fall colors arrived along with cooler weather. I’m anxious to see my sons who are attending college in other states. I’m anxious to get everyone together again, if even briefly. We’ll tell family stories (some of which are true), we’ll gather around the table, we’ll pray, we’ll share our dreams, and we’ll hang out.

Thinking about the holiday of Thanksgiving also got me thinking about how the best leaders I know are also thankful leaders. They are leaders who continually give thanksgiving. They recognize the big wins and the small wins. These celebrate and give thanks for sunsets. And family. And friends. And employment. And life. And trials. And new life. And sand in the shoe. And beautiful weather. And storms. And spouses. And children. And grandchildren. And pets. And good books. And … You get the idea. Great leaders give thanks in good times and bad. They demonstrate a spirit and attitude of thanksgiving.

Ever notice that thanksgiving is contagious? When you’re around someone who is thankful, it’s harder to complain and whine. When you’re around someone who is thankful, it causes you to start thinking about things for which you’re thankful. When you’re around someone who is thankful, you’ll feel better.

Thankful people aren’t necessarily living life on “easy street,” they’ve just learned to be content, joyful, and thankful regardless of their circumstance. Wasn’t this the wise counsel from the Apostle Paul who had learned to be content whether rich or poor? Whether in sickness or health?

Regardless of your circumstances, give thanks. Demonstrate an attitude and spirit of thanksgiving. Make a list of things for which you’re thankful. Make a list of people who have positively impacted your life. Help a neighbor. Volunteer at a local soup kitchen. Help meet a practical need (i.e. food, shelter, companionship) of someone less fortunate. Give thanks.

Finally, a couple keys to demonstrating thanksgiving: You need to have good eyes and good ears. You need to watch and listen. Observe. Reflect. Be deliberate in noticing all the things for which you have to be thankful. Celebrate thanksgiving all year long, not just during the month of November. The more you truly “see” the world around you and the blessings you are experiencing, the more thankful you’ll be.

How about you? What Thanksgiving traditions do you have? What do you have to be thankful for? What are practical ways you demonstrate a spirit of thanksgiving?

Dr. is an agent of change and is able to balance the needs of the business and the needs of people. Dr. Gerwig believes and practices the values of performance and delivery of business metrics while simultaneously developing and growing people into leaders. You can contact him at RobertGerwig[at]


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