My parents recently rediscovered dozens of old cassettes filled with videos from my childhood; the toddler in me, whom I had long forgotten about, was reawakened by the memories trapped in these cassettes. I watched in amazement as mini-me ran around the house, absolutely free of all worries and stress, and happily babbled on in a language only babies are familiar with. To me, these videos were a reminder of the carefree and simplistic life I was fortunate enough to grow up with. To most of us, videos like these are remnants of a childhood filled with curiosity and wonder. However, reality paints a much different picture for some children.

More than 700,000 children are victims of child abuse every year in the U.S alone; even more children are victims of neglect — and that’s only for reported cases. 1 in every 5 students is a victim of physical and/or cyberbullying. Youth suicide is one of the leading causes of death for teenagers, and these numbers only keep increasing. For children who have gone through or are currently going through such intense and terrifying experiences, a single minute without violence, self-hatred, or fear is something to be thankful for. While many students worry about their next test or how they will perform at the next big soccer game, children who silently suffer from abuse are being deprived of opportunities to explore and experience life in the same way. 

We are never better than the people around us, nor should we put down the issues that we face because we know others who face much worse. However, being aware of difficulties that others are going through allows us to realize and be grateful for what we have. That realization can develop into a sense of empathy for those around us, which allows us to help people who aren’t fortunate enough to have what we have. Kindness can flourish as soon as people realize what they are grateful for and stop seeking power or validation at the expense of others. This realization can create a community in which people embrace one another, and is what will allow children who have been suffering from abuse to have their voices heard and get the help they need!

Thanksgiving isn’t meant to be celebrated only once a year; it should be embraced every second of every minute of every day because thankfulness is what saves us from constantly wishing for things we don’t have; gratefulness prevents us from repeating mistakes and allows us to value what we have in that very moment. It brings us closer as a society because it encourages people to act for others and not just for themselves. Gratitude fills people with an appreciation for the world and a sense of purpose — one that can fight its way through any adversity.

“What am I thankful for?” I hope you keep this question in the back of your mind and reflect upon it every day because if you do, you will gain the ability to view the world, other people, and yourself in a much healthier light.