You Can Be Grateful for the Past without Living in It

Each year on Thanksgiving Day, our family shares with one another that which we are most thankful for. This is certainly a way to remind our children why we celebrate the holiday, but for some reason, it sometimes seems little enough. In spite of adversity, most of us can find a number of reasons to be thankful, yet even marking a day on the calendar to acknowledge the good in our life seems like a cheat.

DGR reflectionWhen talking to our children about being grateful, we so often we chide them and ourselves for not living in the now. We tell ourselves to be happy for what we have now. And while this is truly important, I think what we are now and what we cherish now is largely a result of our past.

The people who are a part of my world and the experiences that define who I am now are things I would never replace. I am fortunate enough to be part of a business that my wife has nurtured over the past several years. I am equally fortunate to benefit from our combined success. At the same time, I must express gratitude for my past, which has laid the foundation for where and who I am today, as well as the people who have somehow touched my soul and helped me get where I am.

Where would I – or any of us be – without our friends? Even today I miss the tennis games that Ed and I played, regardless of the temperature. Out of all of those games, I think I beat him twice. The fun was in the companionship, not the victory. And our non-aggression pact is proof that two people, regardless of cultural and spiritual diversity, can share moments and memories (however embarrassing or damning) and forever keep them in our confidence. Whenever I think of Don, I remember when he introduced me to Queen and an assortment of other musicians, eternally expanding my love for music of all genres. And at least twice a year, our entire family enjoys Pete’s chili.

I still recall fondly those friends I have made and the times we have spent together, however brief in some instances. My years in the U.S. Air Force remind me of friends and experiences that remain an influence on me, especially from the years I spent in Wiesbaden, Germany. The beer, the bratwurst, the glühwein at Christmas: They all conjure incredible memories for me that I endeavor to share with those around me. And even after my military stint, my employment as a manager at Wendy’s allowed me develop relationships that have survived to this day.

My close family, however, gives me more joy than I can truly articulate. As well as my immediate family, I value my friends and family who live on either side of the country. I am thankful for those relationships that have endured over the years, those that have been revived (thank you, Pam) and those relationships that have blossomed, as my wife explored her lineage in Quebec, Canada. And I don’t know how many days I go without craving a jambon et fromage crèpe from Le Marche de la Villette in Montreal.

The places and experiences of my past are a part of me and make me the person I am today. They continue to inspire me. I would not change anything about my past, for I am the result of that past, as are my children to some extent. For better or worse, we are all a product of the people that have been a part of our lives and where we have been. For all that I am, that I have and that I have been, I am thankful. We can all be thankful for what we have now; we can be equally thankful for our pasts that have defined who we are.

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