Miranda Allfrey Travel Writer

Dear Costa Rica,

To be thankful is to express gratitude, and there is so much to be grateful for. In life, it is the simple things that matter. It is the smallest gestures that are often overlooked. 

Each November, many take to social media to express 30 days of gratitude, posting thanks daily for a gift in their life such as friends, family, job, etc. It is a reminder to stay connected, to stay grounded, and to stay grateful. 

I find that time goes by faster each and every year, sometimes daily. All of the people, things, moments, and memories that have shaped my life are impossible to keep up with. Each step in life has created a feeling, a place where smiles, laughter, tears, defeat, or love live. Those who have influenced our lives live in our thoughts, and there is something about the holidays that bring those connections to life. 

A lot can happen in a year, and this time of year allows us to reconnect and share a cup of coffee, a glass of wine, or an exchange of letters or cards to say hello. There is something to be said for a grateful heart and the recognition of people, places, and things that have shaped who we are. Gratitude keeps us humble, and it keeps us connecting. When we allow gratitude into our lives, we allow room for growth. Our hearts open up and appreciate the smallest of things. 

The world we live in is ever changing, often scary at times. If we all expressed gratitude each day, we could influence conversations and outcomes from the heart. Gratitude is powerfu; it focuses on the positive and kills the negative. 

There is so much to be thankful for. A year ago I was greeting families who were coming through a line to pick up a donated Thanksgiving meal to feed their loved ones. It was moving. It was powerful. Thanksgiving is often overlooked. We often think about the turkey dinner, the football games, or the black friday Christmas shopping instead of giving thanks.

As I reflect on the past year, I look at the what has influenced me for the better. I am grateful for those things that have taken me out of my comfort zone. I am thankful for the opportunity to have volunteered at Eblen Charities and been a part of something so much bigger than me. Thanksgiving is not about the turkey, however it gives us a reason to come together, to talk, to share love, and to expand. 

The experiences of 2015 have provided new outlooks, new insights, and sparked new passions. This Thanksgiving I challenge you to think about the top 10 things from 2015 you have been grateful for. Write them down, send someone a thank you card, or create a goal to do more of something. Inspire yourself, or influence another. Talk about what you are grateful for. Converse over a meal about what has helped shape you this year and how you will help influence something bigger than yourself in 2016.

It must start with us: our actions, our thoughts, and our gratitude to spread goodness, growth, and influence. Take a moment this Thanksgiving to reflect on someone who helped you, who pushed you to do better, or something that inspired you to take action. Remind yourself to do the same for someone else, and always maintain a grateful heart. 

Tomorrow as I laugh with friends and family over a turkey dinner, I know my heart will be smiling for all of the living of 2015 – the good, the not so good, the tears, the laughter, and the conversations – because without all of it, I would not be right here, right now. 

Looking into tear-filled eyes of a woman who was grateful to be able to feed her family a Thanksgiving meal forever changed me. It’s the smallest things to be grateful for, because in the end they are the big things. 

To the influencers of my 2015, may I be a little more like you each day, and may I share the gifts you have given me with another in 2016. 

This holiday season and all of 2016 wear gratitude everywhere you go. Watch love grow and dream bigger.

From the heart, Mandy

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