If your family follows the common tradition, at some point during your Thanksgiving feast, there will be a round-robin of the “what I’m thankful for” game. This little family activity is oddly nerve-wracking, for an odd reason: we are all afraid of being thankful for the wrong thing.

If your family follows the common tradition, at some point during your Thanksgiving feast, there will be a round-robin of the “what I’m thankful for” game. This little family activity is oddly nerve-wracking, for an odd reason: we are all afraid of being thankful for the wrong thing.

The default, knee-jerk response is to say that you’re thankful for your family, which, hopefully, is true. No one’s family is perfect, but it’s Thanksgiving, and family is family.  
The “I’m thankful for my family” answer is so simple and tempting. Just smile and deliver the line, and then everyone will nod and move on to little cousin Billy, who will no doubt be thankful for his Lego set. But it’s okay for Billy to be thankful for his Lego set, because Billy isn’t old enough to know what he’s supposed to be thankful for.

And that’s where the trip comes. We’re all supposed to be thankful for our family, and so that’s what we say. But one thing that no one ever asks during the Thankful Game is why you’re thankful in the first place.

When you’re sitting at the dinner table, afraid that you’ll be denied succulent turkey if you don’t supply an answer to the thankfulness question, it’s easy to give the family answer and reach for the stuffing. But take a moment to really consider why you’re grateful to have your family, and the Thankful Game will become all the more meaningful.
So what I’m thankful for is my family. Why? Because they love me. Because they support me and the far-fetched things I want to do with my life. Because they laugh when I try to make a joke, they notice when a new grade card is stuck to the refrigerator, and they tease me, but only gently, about my less-than-secret nerdy life. They’re my family, and I hope I’m everything to them that they are to me.

It’s OK to be thankful for the other stuff. Be thankful for your Lego set, if that’s what you love. Be thankful for your house and your car and your job. Be thankful that you aren’t a half-starved pilgrim trying to scrape out an existence in a God-forsaken colony, or a Native American trying to protect your hunting grounds from some pasty-faced European.

But beyond all else, be thankful to have your family next to you, in whatever form it takes. And make little Billy wait his turn and tell them why they mean what they mean to you.