Since it’s Thanksgiving, I felt like I should write something super noble and deep. Something that would really cut to the core and get to the heart of what this holiday is all about.
But instead, I came up with this.
“Welcome to Hell, here’s your food tray.”
I’m pretty sure on this day three years ago, I posted that very message to Facebook using my cellphone in the employee bathroom at a Cracker Barrel restaurant.
I was working as a waiter at the time, so Thanksgiving meant an 8-hour break-less shift of slinging turkey combo meals and relentlessly attempting to explain to a patron wearing what had to have been his traditional Thanksgiving sweatpants, that the pie was included with the meal. No seriously, you aren’t getting charged extra for it.
Now normally I freely admit I have no clear vision of what Heaven or Hell look like — I just know I want to get to one and avoid the other — but when I really need some motivation to stay on track, that moment on Thanksgiving in Cracker Barrel bathroom provides a nice, fearful mental image. While the rest of the world was gathering around a table or sitting on a couch somewhere in celebration, the best I could do was savor a few moments in the only room in the building where no one at the job I hated (and sucked at) would yell at me.
It’s not that I’m some Thanksgiving purist bent on burning any store open on the holiday to the ground, I’m not. In fact, I actually like that most of time I don’t have to stress over forgetting random items that didn’t make the per-holiday shopping list.
That day’s suckfest wasn’t about some grudge I was holding against American commerce, it was about me realizing I’d never really been thankful for how good my previous Thanksgivings had been.
During all those prior holidays, between all the napping, eating, and pretending I cared about the Lions’ game along side family members, never once did it really set in how good I had it. Though I technically gave thanks many times on that day, I don’t think I was ever really thankful.
That is, until I was hiding in that bathroom and realized I’d taken for granted how awesome all the little aspects of my previous Thanksgivings had been. The employee squatting spot at Cracker Barrel has that effect on a man’s perspective.
Suddenly, I was more grateful than ever for those days, but let’s be honest, being thankful after the fact is never as good of a feeling as being thankful in the moment. The longer you wait to truly give thanks, the more empty it feels when you do.
So no matter if you’re spending this Thanksgiving feasting, working, or attempting to simply survive that awful relative who always asks if you’re gaining weight, I suggest you take a few moments to yourself, sit back, and take inventory of all the little things you have going for yourself.
Take them all in, in the moment in which they are happening, and then today, not tomorrow, not a week from now, and I pray not years later in Cracker Barrel bathroom, truly give thanks.