What’s there to be thankful for?

Turkey, stuffing and brown gravy. Cider and pumpkins and pilgrims. Friends and family around a table staring at buckets of food. All the uncles secretly competing in the most interesting sweater contest.

Dr. Vaughn

Dr. Vaughn

All of these things have been a part of this weekend for all of my life. It’s what makes it special for me.

But on this particular Thanksgiving day, my mind wanders and my heart is full. Because for the first time in a long time, I’m paying attention to the things that deserve that attention the most. On this 2015 Thanksgiving weekend, I’m feeling profoundly thankful.

I saw a commercial the other day that really moved me. It’s not often that commercials have that effect, and so I’m always caught off guard when they do.

It opens with a man standing at the sink brushing his teeth. And for the entirety of his brushing routine, the water is running. As it progresses, the camera gets closer and closer to the running water until we no longer see the man or his toothbrush. And then, from off screen, in comes a young child with dirtied face and torn clothing.

And this child begins shoveling handfuls of water into her mouth as if she hasn’t had a sip in days.

The point of the commercial, of course, was to encourage water conservation. But the implications gushing from just thirty seconds of airtime are incredible to me. And because of the message it sends, I find myself thinking about that little girl every time I use running water.

Did you know that there are 663 million people on this Earth that do not have access to clean drinking water?

Or that 2.4 BILLION people in the world are living without proper sanitation options?

Could you imagine what your life would look like if you were a part of that number?

Life can be hard. No one is denying that. You can be mega successful and have multiple bank accounts and yet be incredibly miserable. But what I’m learning is that this is one thing that makes being human so beautiful. No matter where we find ourselves on the planet or in life, there are these intangible things that connect us. We can understand the struggles of complete strangers across the hemispheres.

It’s been weeks since I’ve last seen the commercial and yet, I think about it every day. That thirsty child is challenging me. She’s urging me to survey my life and ask the question, “Am I blessed? Am I lucky?”
“What do I have to be thankful for?”

Often times, in an age and country that has the world at its fingertips, that’s a difficult question to ask and an even more difficult question to answer.

Because our sense of thankfulness tends to always be one step behind our sense of reality. We’re rarely gracious for what is currently going on around us. What ends up happening instead is that later on, after the moment is gone, we reflect and we remember, and we wish we had have appreciated it more while we were in it.

This is why nostalgia is so meaningful. It’s a moment of clarity and thankfulness. It’s pulling back the curtains and seeing our pasts in a meaningful light. You’ll even become sentimental about events that may have been tough and burdensome at the time. Blessings are often in disguise because we aren’t thinking clearly. We’re not seeing the big picture. We’re too overcome by a million tiny things in the world that ultimately do not matter.

The point of Thanksgiving is to allow these two realities to coincide. So that you are thankful for things in your life. . right now.

So on this day of giving thanks, give it. On this day of being with the people you love, be with them. Today, tomorrow, and every day after that, be thankful. Be thankful for the people in your life that make you who you are. Be thankful for the opportunities you’ve had in your education and in your career. Thankful for the mentors and the teachers and the peers and the conversations along the way. Thankful for the experiences both in the clinic and out of it. The crowns that looked beautiful and the crowns that didn’t seat all the way. The difficult patients. The extraction that made you sweat. The awkward encounter that inspired a new policy.

Clean water. Food. Democracy. Modern medicine.
May you find clarity and the ability to see the world around you in a whole new way. Not just today. But every day. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Dr. Joe Vaughn is a New Dentist Now guest blogger. He grew up in Alabama and recently graduated from The University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Dentistry in 2015. He now lives in Seattle, Washington, where he attends the General Practice Residency at the University of Washington. Two cups of coffee, writing and indie music are everyday occurrences for Joe. Go Seahawks and Roll Tide!

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