It’s Thanksgiving week! What’s your favorite part of the way you celebrate this holiday? Something you find on your plate? A traditional standby like turkey or mashed potatoes? Or maybe something particular to your own family of origin? Or perhaps, more than the meal, you enjoy watching football, going for a hike outside, or saying something you’re thankful for as you gather at the table.

Giving thanks – gratitude – can be a deep and meaningful spiritual practice. But too often we mistake appreciation for gratitude. Appreciation is bringing your attention to something in a way that enhances your experience of joy. For example, taking time to taste a meal as you eat it can lead to appreciation. Or opening your eyes to the beauty of fall as you walk across campus.

But gratitude is much deeper than appreciation. When we are grateful, we notice where something we appreciate came from. We’re grateful to the giver of the good things in our life. Just think of all the givers when it comes to a good meal – farmers, harvesters, truckers, cooks, hosts, servers, the earth, favorable weather, God, etc. etc.) 

Gratitude invites us to focus our attention beyond just how we feel, what we like or dislike, and toward a connection with others. Gratitude takes us beyond ourselves and connects us to the world around us. During this Thanksgiving week, I invite you into a spiritual practice of gratitude.

Spiritual practices can be planned or spontaneous. A planned practice could be naming some of the ways that this holiday – however you celebrate it – connects you with other people and the world God made through gratitude. Or, perhaps instead of a planned practice, you could look for spontaneous opportunities to be grateful during this week of giving thanks.

As always, I am deeply grateful to be a part of this community of faith on campus. Thank you for being a part of Lutheran Campus Ministry!