The importance of thankfulness

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Do not forget to give thanks for all you have, no matter how big or small.

Laura Heckenlaible, Staff Writer

According to Merriam Webster, an online thesaurus, the word thankfulness is defined as, “Acknowledgment of having received something good from another.” Synonyms of the word are but are not limited to recognition, admiration, gratitude and love. As the holiday is approaching, people are going to hear their fair share of festive quotes expounding on the idea of thankfulness. And for some, as they gather to enjoy a meal they may be posed with the ever daunting question, “What are you thankful for?” 

On the outside, it is a seemingly easy question to answer. Family, food, friends and a roof over your head are simple answers for most. When asked this question it is easy to brush over the enormity and immense importance of thankfulness. Being thankful and expressing gratitude is not just for the Thanksgiving season. Thankfulness is so much more than a simple answer given around the table at Thanksgiving dinner. 

As crazy as it may sound, when giving thanks people do not think simple enough. Yes, saying you are grateful for your friends and family is simple yet still true, but what about the very things many take for granted each day? It is the water we drink, the shoes we wear, and even the very toilet we are able to use. The most simple items many tend to not even think twice about are the ones countless people worldwide wish they could have every day. According to UNICEF, a United Nations agency working to provide humanitarian aid to impoverished and disadvantaged children, “Around 60% of the world – 4.5 billion people – don’t have a toilet that safely manages human waste at home.” Toilets are critical to proper hygiene and sanitation. Without them, it creates an unhealthy living environment where the risk of infections is high. Also, in an article by The Borgen Project, a non-profit organization that is working towards ending and addressing poverty said, “Across the world, around 300 million people cannot afford shoes.” Those without shoes are prone to contracting diseases and suffering from injury and physically damaging foot pain. Though many in America suffer from poverty, it is much worse around the world in countries in Africa and the Middle East where poverty rates are high and civil unrest is making it hard for anyone to survive. If we did not have access to these simple, looked-over necessities like toilets and shoes, most of our lives would look very different. 

Thankfulness stretches far beyond the people in your life and the objects you can put into use. Think about the experiences you have been able to take part in or even the abilities you have. Poverty is a huge problem the world has been and will continue to face. According to World Vision, “89 million people are living in extreme poverty, surviving on less than $1.90 a day.” The people experiencing poverty and even the people who are not necessarily well off just do not have the money to travel and experience the different places around America and the world. Even the act of taking a road trip to a neighboring state is foreign to so many. Think about the little experiences like blasting music with the windows down, going to the lake or even just spending the night with yourself. Those are all experiences that though completely straightforward, are amazing opportunities many can only dream of. You can even be grateful for your abilities. Some are intelligent in school; others can play sports or an instrument extremely well. Your abilities are unique but so beneficial to the people around you. Without one person an orchestra or band would sound different. Without a certain runner or player, a whole team can change. When giving thanks everyone tries to one-up each other with who has the most extravagant item to be thankful for when in reality it is the little things such as your ability to do something or the experiences you get to be a part of that are valued the most.

Now, in no way am I trying to undermine your problems. I have no idea what any of you are going through and what your life may look like. But I know personally for myself, I realize what privilege I have. I see how many opportunities I have and the necessities I utilize every day. But I am far from perfect and often forget about the great number of things I have to be grateful for. And I can bet for some, you too forget how much you have to be grateful for.

The act of being thankful is exactly as any dictionary or thesaurus puts it; it is the act of fully acknowledging that you have received something good. That something good does not have to be expensive and it does not have to be crazy rare for thankfulness is not just one thing. Thankfulness is a toilet, it is a pair of shoes, it is traveling and it is even that simple dollar bill in your pocket. It is all of the small experiences, people and objects though so uncomplicated are still some of the most treasured in one’s life. So, next time you get an A on a test, go for a run or use a toilet do not take it for granted, for so many people do not have as much to be grateful for.