It's Thanksgiving weekend in Canada - a time to step back and give thanks. Lots of people will be thinking about what they are thankful for. I'd like to take a minute and ask a different question. What are you giving when you are giving thanks?
There is nothing in your hands when you give thanks, so what you are giving is not a thing. And there is no action implied by giving thanks, so you are not giving service. What is left to give?
When we give thanks, we give attention to what supports or delights us. When we give thanks to someone, we give thanks to the characteristics and behaviours that support and delight us. This is what makes thanks-giving so powerful when it is directed to someone. For just a moment, we give all our attention only to what we see in them that helps and gives hope and makes us happier.
When we teach small children to say thank you, we teach them to prepare for a moment of connection. The child doesn't quite know how to give thanks, so instead they give a word and watch. And what happens next feels like magic. They give a word and they get full, pleased, respectful attention.
It's the beginning of a virtuous cycle - a cycle where attention to what is good about being with other people resonates and amplifies. When we give thanks, we give attention and when we give attention, we help others to connect with the qualities in them that we are noticing. As they connect, they become more of what we noticed. A child is pleased and says thank you and another child or grown up is pleased by the thank you and notices good things in the child.
Find someone this weekend and give them your thanks for something they do or something they are. And notice what happens next. It will be good.