Last year my colleague and I had the opportunity to lead a team building event on gratitude. While researching gratitude for this event I was intrigued to learn that gratitude and thankfulness are not as synonymous as I had originally thought. Thankfulness is an emotion whereas gratitude is an action expressing one’s thankfulness.


In February 2021 my father-in-law had a tragic fall that has him now wheelchair bound for the remainder of his life. Since his accident my husband and his siblings rotate visits to their southwest Florida home not only to help his caregivers but also my mother-in-law with much needed respite. It’s easy for us to forget that this is now his life as well as my mothers-in-law considering the great distance from them (our family in Indianapolis, brother-in-law’s family in Chicago, and the other two siblings’ families in west Michigan). While we are so thankful that he survived the fall when there were moments, we did not believe he would, we find it difficult to understand his physical limitations, especially since he was very active prior to his accident. He has had such a positive perspective on his life since his accident, how thankful he is for 74 years of healthy activity and is grateful for however many years he has working on regaining his physical strength in a different way.


Seeing that family gatherings rotating from either Chicago or west Michigan is no longer an option, the siblings coordinated possible dates to all visit them in Florida. This Thanksgiving the entire family of 20 (10 adults, 10 kids) were able to get together for the first time in three years. From Monday to Friday, we shared a lot of laughs, played endless amounts of pickleball and beach volleyball, a competitive game of beach football on Thanksgiving day, hugs, food, drinks, more food and drinks, and memories we will forever cherish.


Before our Thanksgiving meal my father-in-law gave a speech saying how the “ful” part of thankfulness and gratefulness was how full he felt in everyone’s contribution and effort join to them for Thanksgiving as he is unable to travel due to his limitations.

family playing tennis
picture of family
family playing volleyball

His positive spirit provides motivation to show gratitude for my health and honoring what I am physically capable of accomplishing. I consistently exercise, high intensity workouts 5-6 times a week with a low impact cardio on the seventh day. When moves in class are extremely challenging, I think of him and how he would probably give anything to have the ability to even try it. I even played beach volleyball for the first time since high school and learned how to play pickleball, which was one of his favorite activities prior to his accident.


We are often told how we take the simplest things for granted. Unfortunately, or fortunately, all it takes is a freak accident to make us realize just how much we have to be thankful and grateful for in our lives.