As Thanksgiving approaches, I want us to take time to reflect on the values that have been at the core of this American holiday for centuries. A little background. Thanksgiving as an official national holiday was started by Sarah Josepha Hale. She was a writer and an editor, known for her nursery rhyme, “Mary Had A Little Lamb.” She advocated for a holiday that would help foster feelings and actions of unity and healing in a divided nation (sound familiar?) during the Civil War. Her advocacy and tenacity paid off in 1863, when President Abraham Lincoln issued a Thanksgiving Proclamation declaring that the last Thursday in November would be a day of “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.” President Lincoln believed a day of thanks would help us heal. Reminding us that we have much in common, much to be grateful for, and that together we have the ability (and still have the ability) to build a strong and unified nation. One hundred and sixty years later, we continue to know that it is important to set aside time to express and demonstrate gratitude, both for what we have and for what is possible.
The roots of the holiday begin in the early 17th century, when Pilgrims and Native Americans came together to share and celebrate a bountiful harvest. We know that myth and truth are intertwined in the complexities of any history, and at the same time, the value of gathering together to give thanks remains important.
Thanksgiving resonates. It serves to remind us that we have much to be thankful for. We have both a history and a future. We have special people in our lives; we have people who support us, and we have people we love supporting. We have opportunities every day to get better, be better, and to help others. Gratitude changes us mentally and physically. We feel better, we develop strong relationships, and we grow resilience.
Leaders, in particular, have a unique role to play in demonstrating gratitude. As a leader, you lead by example. At home, you openly express thanks to and for your family. You create belonging. At the workplace, you show appreciation for your team, boosting morale, productivity, trust, and innovation. In the community, you use your skills and your heart to give back to others.
As a leadership performance coach and an organizational design consultant, I continue to be inspired by you. I watch the ways you demonstrate your gratitude in action every day. You are the individuals who create workforces and workplaces where teams and businesses thrive. You let people know they matter. You help them grow. Although the task can be difficult, at the end of the day, you are grateful to share your vision, your skills, and your caring with others. Thank you.
Wishing you a beautiful Thanksgiving holiday.