Thankfully the Holiday is Over!
Of course, the title of this inspirational reflection is partly in jest. But part of me is serious when I say, thankfully, the holiday is over. Both aspects need some clarification and development.
It is clear that I offer a word play on the most recent holiday, namely, Thanksgiving. Actually, I am quite good with Thanksgiving Day itself. I appreciate that it is totally an American holiday. When we grow up Americans, it may be difficult to revel in that fact. Truly, it was when I was abroad one November that I realized all my family and friends “back home” were celebrating Thanksgiving and I was simply doing what routinely was to be done on Thursday in the country where I was living at the time. I missed Thanksgiving.
I like the idea of Thanksgiving. Certainly I and most of the people I know have been very fortunate. We all have much for which we can be thankful. I am ok with taking a day during my year and making it a special Thanksgiving Day. I can do that without falling into the trap of thinking there is no need to be thankful till next November!
Indeed, hardly a day goes by in my life when I have not been thankful for this or for that. My day starts early with coffee and the newspaper. Since those are not delivered at my door, that means a trek to the store and a chance to interact with my first human being of the day. It is a small gesture to utter those daily “thanks” to the store clerk, but it is an important gesture. Not to be thankful is to begin a day with an attitude that is not good.
And if I can ignore the small things---those small incidents in my day for which I appropriately should be thankful---then I have started being the human being I really don’t want to become. So I am quite willing to extend Thanksgiving Day---at least, the attitude of thanksgiving---into every new day until next November rolls around.
However, there is a part of me that is very glad---thankfully---the holiday is over! I say this with the full awareness that most Americans would not agree with me. For most people, Thanksgiving is not just a day---it is four days. Thanksgiving holiday too often actually begins on Wednesday! And clearly, Thanksgiving goes through Sunday. That is what I mean when I say, thankfully, the holiday is over!
Actually, Thanksgiving Day is the easy part. Black Friday I understand is an absolute hoot for shoppers. Camping out for a day or two on a sidewalk outside the big box store to save some bucks on a tv most people don’t really need baffles me. Of course, that means I cannot imagine doing it! But I also know some folks cannot imagine going to a football game or the opera.
I am sure the major reason I am thankful that the holiday is over is the fact that I don’t fit in culturally. I am not against culture---not even American culture. That is the culture in which I live and in which I grew up. But there are parts of that culture I do not approve of and in which I don’t want to participate.
I know my biggest complaint about the holiday (and the holidays to come!) is the misplaced focus or emphasis. Think about it. Thanksgiving originally and traditionally was a time to be together with family and friends and give thanks. It was originally a time those early settlers realized half of them would not die over the winter! I am not sure what they did on Black Friday! I think Thanksgiving is originally and traditionally spiritual.
Our culture is not designed to focus on the spiritual. I suspect that we will need to be slightly counter-cultural if we opt for the spiritual. Flat screen tvs are predictably a distraction from the spiritual. I might be thankful to get one at a discount, but that I can get one is not inherently spiritual.
For me the spiritual has to do with life, love, justice, mercy and all those other things people offer or withhold from each other. I want to use those as checkmarks for thanksgiving. Am I aware of my life as a gift and am I thankful? I want to make this a daily checkmark.
Am I doing as much loving as possible? (I’ve got some growing to do here!) Do I say thanks for the love given me? Am I acting with a sense of justice---fairness---to all those people in my life? Can I make this a daily checkmark? Finally, am I able to be merciful to those whose only hope is mercy? When I blow it, can I be thankful to those who show mercy to me?
Thankfully, the holiday is over…now I can get to the daily checking on my spiritual life. I’ve got work to do!