Thanks for Nothing

By Rebecca Novick and Emily Renner

With the holiday season in full swing, we are told to show gratitude for all the blessings we are given in life. Starting on Thanksgiving, we are constantly reminded to be thankful for family, friends, safety, health, comfort, food, the list goes on. But are we truly grateful for these things? Or are we merely going through the motions of what is expected of us?

As families gather around the table for the holidays, it is a popular tradition for each person to say something for which he or she is thankful. While the intention of this ritual is for us to recognize how lucky we are, most people just provide a variation of the expression of gratitude said immediately before. We don’t necessarily admit what we personally feel grateful for, but instead we say a general statement to which everyone can relate (or expects to hear). Of course it is important to be thankful for the necessities in life, but how can one be grateful for something when it is not personalized to who he or she is as an individual?

During this joyful time of year, many of us will receive a gift in some form, whether they are piled up next to the menorah or sitting underneath the Christmas tree. Our immediate reaction when opening a gift is to say “thank you” to the person from whom we recieved it. But do we mean it? Or has it just become reflexive? From the time we learn to talk, we are taught to say thank you for everything; no favor is too small to warrant gratitude. We constantly say “thank you” to be polite, yet we have become desensitized to the meaning of the phrase. In order to be truly thankful, we must understand what we are being thankful for. It’s not just about the materialistic items, but it is indeed “the thought that counts.”

The people giving the gifts took time out of their lives to do something for you, and a mere “thank you” isn’t always sufficient. Rather, we must put in an effort when it comes to thanking them. By thanking them, we express our gratitude for not only the present itself, but also for the time they spent choosing it for us. Honestly, their consideration alone is a present in and of itself, and our “thank yous” should reflect our understanding of that. We should start personalizing our gratitude and make it clear that we are appreciative of the person, as well as the gift. We need to stop being superficially grateful—it’s time to express our gratitude and mean it. So when you receive a gift in the upcoming weeks, put a little more thought into your “thank you.”

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