This week we celebrate our American Thanksgiving. Canada celebrated theirs a few weeks ago, and other countries have their own schedules, but this week America pauses to reflect and give thanks.
I know (and love!) that Thanksgiving has become a favorite time for family reunions, enormous feasts, and football. This is good!
But it is also appropriate to pause and reflect. As much or more than other nations, we have a unique story.
Modern America began with a group of refugees washed up on the shores of the New World. They braved the Atlantic in tiny, leaking ships, leaving family and everything familiar behind, knowing that for most of them it was a one-way trip. They were a desperate bunch, seeking liberty, freedom of religion, and (at least in part) adventure.
The first year, they nearly starved. They tried forming a communal society, but it quickly broke down and so they divided up the land into personal plots, encouraged individual effort, and by the second year they had cause to celebrate. They gave thanks.
As we have our day of Thanksgiving, I encourage you to ponder the relationship between abundance, gratitude, and ambition.
We have much to be grateful for. Almost everyone who reads this is rich. We sometimes forget that, and mostly take it for granted. We have warm homes, clothes on our backs, food on the table, microwave ovens and cell phones. We have cars, which are frequently parked on the street because our garages are full of our "stuff."
And still we worry about lack and shortage. We worry about the lack of money, or an energy shortage. We worry whether we'll have enough to retire or put our kids through college.
So it is a vital question: Do we live in a world of abundance, or a world of lack? It's a very personal decision, based on your own perspective. I can't give you the answer, but I'm convinced how you answer that question does make a difference. It changes you attitude, your self- image, and your view of the world around you. Personally, I see a world of abundance, but that's just me.
I see a world of abundant opportunity and energy, a world over-flowing with light and freedom, with creativity, and chances to make a difference. How about you?
Second, many have noted that the "attitude of gratitude" opens doors and empowers us. If we live with fear or jealousy, an attitude of lack or anxiety, everything we do is inhibited and hesitant. Gratitude gives courage. It fosters optimism, and reduces the sense of risk. In a world in which we strive and fight for every scrap, we dare not take risks or act boldly, for fear of losing what little we have.
But in a world of abundance and with an attitude of gratitude, we are free. We can strive boldly, we can take wild, crazy risks, and enjoy the ride.
Which, I suspect, is the source and definition of ambition. Many have achieved great things with an unhealthy attitude of "getting all you can" or "doing unto others before they do unto you," but their success seldom lasts. That attitude of fear and greed and competing for scarce and fleeting success, carries within itself the seeds of its own downfall.
True ambition is the desire to build, to create, to respond eagerly to the riches around us and make things better for as many people, in as many ways, as we can.
This Thanksgiving, notice the abundance around us. Be grateful! And out of abundance and gratitude, renew your commitment to create something special, something lasting, something that will benefit all of humankind.
On Thursday, eat hearty! And on Friday, let's get to work.