Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Thanksgiving: a Day and a Way of Life

As Americans, we enter the Thanksgiving season.  Already people are wishing me a “happy Thanksgiving.”  I am delighted with that greeting.  And I would be delighted if someone next week wishes me a “happy Monday.”  But I guess Mondays are supposed to be normal…not so happy, not so awful. 

I am not sure I do major holidays very well.  I am not against them.  They celebrate important events in national, religious, and often personal lives.  Thanksgiving is an American deal.  In Turkey it is just another weekday!  As an American, I welcome it.  And I hope it is happy. 

I am confident one of the reasons I am not sure about major holidays is the trickiness of expectations.  For example, Thanksgiving is supposed to be “happy.”  Christmas is supposed to be “merry” and, of course, we return to the “happy” theme for New Years.  Clearly, for too many people there are too many lousy things going on to gear up to be “happy” and “merry.”  Holiday expectations are tricky things. 

The truth is Thanksgiving lasts one day.  It is here and it is gone.  Even if one adds “Black Friday,” that is only two days.  Since I am not a shopper and, certainly, not a shop-till-I-drop person, Friday is not part of the deal.  No one ever has wished me a “Happy Black Friday!” 

I am glad Thanksgiving is here.  And I am glad it is one day and then it is over till another year.  And I hope I am happy…and you, too. 

In reality I am more interested in how Thanksgiving can become a way of life.  In fact, I think we should not capitalize it.  I want my way of life to be one of thanksgiving.  That gets me at the spiritual roots of my life and how I want those roots to issue a way of life for which I can say, “thanks.”  And I hope my way of life becomes such that others can say, “thank you.” 

Both those qualities are necessary for my understanding of thanksgiving as a way of life.  I need to be able to say, “thanks,” and to have others respond genuinely with their “thank you.”  If I am only concerned with a way of life for which I give “thanks,” I fear it may be a way of life rooted in self-interest.  If I get all I want, then I will be thankful.  But some of what I might want may come at the expense of others.  And surely, they are not going to say, “thank you.” 

On the other hand, if I live only to get your “thank you,” I may be nothing more than your servant or, worse, doormat!  You happily say, “thank you,” but I certainly am not saying, “thanks.” 

The good news is that kind of thanksgiving is a way of life.  I don’t have to pull it off by the weekend.  Like music or sports, I will probably have to practice a fair amount.  There is time.  Perhaps, the real question is not whether I am succeeding, but am I making progress? 

How will I know if I am making progress?  Likely, there are many ways to measure it, but let me offer two.  I will be making progress if I am more loving---more loving than I was last week and last Thanksgiving.  Sometimes that is not easy---there are so many ding-a-lings out there!  And of course, most people are not as loveable as I am! 

The second measure is if I am more graceful.  I am not thinking of gymnasts and ballerinas.  Grace is always a gift.  If I am more graceful, I am more giving---perhaps, more forgiving.  If I can be more graceful, more giving, then people are more likely to say, “thank you.”
           
This is the last inspirational journey until Monday after Thanksgiving.



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