The True Story Of Thanksgiving

“That’s not my Thanksgiving story,” Sam confided as we watched the joyous reunions of families with kids returning from college.

“I came home from college to find my room now had a crib with a new baby. My bed had been moved to the unfinished basement. The message was clear. I never came back, and my mom was fine with that. She moved on.”

His heartbreaking story stands in stark contrast to his life today. He’s an amazing guy with a cool wife, interesting and well-adjusted kids, and a successful business.

“To give thanks in solitude is enough. Thanksgiving has wings and goes where it must go. Your prayer knows much more about it than you do.”
~ Victor Hugo

His sad Thanksgiving story reads differently when you ask him for the other side. That narrative is a story of self-reliance, triumph, and gutsy determination. From that lens, his anger and resentment fueled his passion to build a great family and meaningful friendships. I don’t know his mom’s story, but it’s complex too. Narratives find gratitude in the midst of pain.

The True Story of Thanksgiving

All versions are true. All real. All powerful. We all have Thanksgiving chapters we would rather have skipped. Stories of pain. Stories of building fortitude.

The Thanksgiving
  • after the diagnosis
  • mid-divorce
  • during the layoff
  • in Iraq
  • alone
  • of the accident
  • when you’re just not breaking through
  • our kids were in trouble

Those stories have multiple narrations. It’s hard to feel the growing, when the growing is tough. But it’s there. Every member of your team has stories too, and interpretations.

I wish for you a Thanksgiving filled with gratitude in the midst of your complicated story. May your leadership have the patience to build on great stories. As you turn the page, consider the best narration for all involved.


Posted in Authenticity & Transparency and tagged , .

Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt, Founder of Let’s Grow Leaders, helps leaders around the world achieve breakthrough results, without losing their soul. A former Verizon Wireless executive, she has over two decades of experience in sales, customer service, and HR. She was recently named on Inc's list of 100 Great Leadership Speakers and American Management Association's 50 Leaders to Watch. She’s the author of 3 books: Winning Well: A Manager's Guide to Getting Results-Without Losing Your Soul, Overcoming an Imperfect Boss, and Glowstone Peak.


  1. An important and difficult point, Karin, yet we understand the nature of perseverance and move forward. When challenging times happen, we may find gratitude difficult to find or we we may find it more readily. In those moments, strength finds us or we find strength and, for that, we must be grateful. Thank you for your message. Enjoy your Thanksgiving. Jon

  2. If you can get two alone people together, even for 3 minutes, then they are no longer alone. Your words strike home today because I am in at least two of those categories. And yet I think, “How can I make a difference in someone else’s life? even for a few minutes?” And with that approach, I may be able to bring light to someone else, and shine a little for myself.

  3. On this day of Thanksgiving find the compassion that lives in YOUR heart and spread it wide and deep and let your stories be what they are without comparing them to what YOU think they should be. Learn that its okay to be YOU and still grow. to suffer and still learn. to experience pain and still change….and so the only way that we can live, is if we grow. The only way that we can grow is if we change. The only way that we can change is if we learn. The only way we can learn is if we are exposed. And the only way that we can become exposed is if we throw ourselves out into the open to the narratives of our lives. So Do it. Throw yourself into your your story, your struggles, your pain, your joy and let it be a witness to who you are.

    Happy THANKSGIVING Karin!


    • Lolly, just beautiful. My favorite, “let you stories be what they are without comparing them to what we think they should be.” Thank you for all you do to help leaders find their heart. Happy Thanks Giving.

    • Karin

      We each have come into this world to do our small part in helping ourselves and humanity.

      I hope the message of the heart reaches those who need to hear it.

      Thanks for being YOU. the WONDERFUL you. I am grateful for our friendship!

  4. Lovely. I’ve been reflecting like many of us on gratitude. Our staff had a thanksgiving lunch last week. Whtat I told them was I was thankful for the opportunity to do for a living the work I love. It took me 30 years for that to be true. For many, they are never in a position to do that. Demands and lack of opportunity prevent that. So, I’m really very thankful for that. Thank you for this great resource. Namaste. (you might enjoy I didn’t learn that word in yoga. I learned it from a political refugeee from Nepal, fleeing the Maoist rebels.)

    • Bill, I reflect on this as well. There are so many for whom circumstances make it tough to follow their dreams. I’m really thankful for all the opportunities and support I’ve been given over the years. I would love to hear more about your friend’s story. I have dear friends who fled the Sudan… their story of rebuilding is tough and beautiful. Much is about making it easier for their children.

    • The person from Nepal was a client for my agency back when I was a volunteer lawyer for the agency. He was targeted by the Maoist guerrillas, for extortion. He eventually fled for his life. He started over here, and was able to bring his entire family. We see that alot here. At our thanksgiving event our client from Congo, explained how he was tortured for his political activism, fleeing and leaving his wife and children behind. Actually that happens frequently for asylum seekers. They must become safe in order to help their families escape.

  5. I read your post with tears in my eyes, Karin as I felt the unfairness of life. Yet, all you say is beyond true and real.
    I guess we need to embrace all the goodness in every part of our lives and not allow the pain or sadness to make us bitter or paralyzed.
    I hope you have a wonderful and joyous Thanksgiving!


    • Terri, I got choked up when I heard his story too. And thought of my toughest thanksgivings, and the Thanksgivings of those I love. It’s hard to see the “good” in the rocky, but it can be there. Have a great Thanksgiving, new Grandma 😉

  6. What a beautiful and tender post, Karin! I love this sentence: “It’s hard to feel the growing, when the growing is tough.”

    When everything we feel hurts, it’s tempting to dial down the feeling to numb what is going on inside. The rawness of pain can cause us to double over, hesitate, fall down…but then it’s our choice to get get up again. Or not.

    That is the point of growth…

    Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, my friend!

    • LaRae, Thanks for you excellent points. We do have choices, and they don’t always feel clear in the midst of the pain. I love to hear stories of triumph… they help us all know there is a new chapter.

  7. Our old nanny’s Mom died two weeks ago. She was sick for a long time but it does not make the letting go easier. Se wrote that many people told her that they’re sure she just wants to get the holidays over with because the pain is too raw, too present. Her reaction was that she still has amazing family, wonderful friends and a little boy that is thrilled that it’s holiday time. She’s choosing gratitude for all that she has instead of living in sadness.

    Happy Thanksgiving to you, Karin! So happy to have connected with you!

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