November 27, 2011
The public approach to Thanksgiving evokes the old curmudgeon in me. In my opinion, Hallmark, the media, and all too many pulpits present a concept of thankfulness that is misleading. There is enough value confusion already present in the world without using this holiday to promote more. My old curmudgeon self cannot be thankful for a prescription for thankfulness that affirms the consumer paradigm of our society.
As it is popularly represented, the act of being thankful is a process in which like King Midas we are encouraged to sit down in our counting houses and tally up all that we have, and then celebrate the size of the bottom line. This practice in which “Having” stands as the primary motivation for gratitude leads in my opinion to a serious misunderstanding.
I will grant you that we are encouraged (at least in the Norman Rockwell tradition of thanks-giving) to be thankful for some important things that are intangible—freedom from fear, from want, freedom to worship as we choose, and freedom to say clearly without penalty, the truth we think we know. But this doesn’t solve the problem.
What does thanks-giving mean when there is fear, when there is want and deprivation, and both worship and speaking freely are severely constrained?
Our appreciation of life and our understanding of the privilege and responsibilities that come with relationships are severely eroded if we view gratitude simply as a proper response to possessions, tangible or intangible.
At the family dinner table my friend’s great-granddaughter Gina said, “Grams, I glad (a new word for her).”
“That’s good,” her great-grandmother responded. “What are you glad for?”
The small girl looked puzzled for a moment, and then responded with firm certainty, “I glad. I glad.”
I am committed this year to practicing Gina’s approach to things.
In the event that someone asks me what I am thankful for, I hope to be able to respond like Gina, “I thankful. I thankful.”
In the days to come, I will seek to live (not simply say) “thankful.” I want my lived thanksgiving to resonate from a steady awareness that life itself, each day, is the great gift, and that I must be careful not to confuse its significance with the things that I possess, no matter how valuable they may be.
Seeking with you to measure my days wisely and to live thankful in whatever circumstance of life I may find myself.
See you next week.