It’s that time of year again – when people far and wide pause from end-of-summer vacations and Halloween parties, and before rushing into a frenzy of greedy holiday shopping and gluttony – to pause and make an empty gesture of “giving thanks.”
Most will observe this almost-overlooked national holiday by enjoying massive feasts and getting a head start on creating even more debt by extravagant Christmas shopping. Many will relax and digest a huge meal while cheering on favorite football teams. More than ever will line up at area soup kitchens and missions just to get something to eat.
Stop “Giving Thanks”
A wise man once opined that hard times breed resilient people while easy times breed shallow people. Many reading this are old enough to remember grandparents or other family who were born into The Great Depression and fought in World War II. Many of them abandoned school to work and help support the family before leaving home for the first time to fight terrible battles across the world.
This writer has memories of watching my grandmother save used cooking grease in a can for later use. She closed off unused rooms in her home to save electricity. I learned the value of hard work and being frugal from her example. She learned those virtues the hard way, by doing without and making everything last as long as possible.
She also taught me about gratitude. This is the oft-neglected virtue that is supposed to be the foundation of our modern Thanksgiving Day holiday. People from her generation knew what it meant to be grateful and to show gratitude to others. This was most often manifested by sharing what they had with neighbors, friends and even strangers.
My novel suggestion to not “give thanks” is a challenge to abandon empty shows or attempts to appear thankful. “Giving thanks” has a connotation of expressing some platitude without meaning, much like a greedy child who must be made to “say thank you” before eagerly diving into the next in a pile of extravagant gifts.
Start Being Thankful
Instead, why not begin cultivating a perpetual attitude of gratitude that becomes part of who we are year-round? I realize that in this day of lazy, incompetent young people who demand high wages for unskilled and often ill-performed tasks, this seems a novel idea. The old adage mentioned earlier about easy times breeding shallow people has surely come to pass – and this writer is guilty.
While my life has had its share of hardships and struggles, this writer must confess the ease with which I fall into self-pity and unthankfulness. A listing of my struggles and blessings is not necessary – because you have your own. Doubtless, every reader of this article can in some way express these sentiments:
“I may have struggled with _________________, but look at what I have not suffered and all with which I’ve been blessed!”
I dare to opine that:
- For most of those who have suffered loss, you also have enjoyed significant gains.
- For those suffering financial struggles, you are still among the richest on the planet.
- For those who complain, you have much for which to be thankful.
Keep Showing Gratitude
It’s time the human race realized that we are each but a tiny dot in an immense cosmos; we did nothing to bring ourselves into existence and we can do nothing to prolong that existence indefinitely. We basically control nothing – except how we choose to live between page one and the last page of our brief lives.
That timeframe, however large or small, can be significant if we endeavor to impact the lives around us for good. Instead of “giving thanks” as a simple empty gesture, this is what I call showing gratitude in every direction and at every opportunity.
We have nothing that we were not given; so why not give out of what we have? It takes little effort and absolutely no cost to simply be a grateful human being that showers respect and kindness onto everyone we meet. To thank those who serve us and strike a lick at serving once in a while ourselves. To be kind to those with less and give them just a bit more. To give without strings or complications. To accept without judging. To live and let live, but try to make someone else’s mode of living a bit happier.
Another wise man repeated this often in this writer’s presence: “Our first step away from God is when we become unthankful.” Regardless of where you stand on matters of faith and religion, we can all agree that unthankfulness is certainly a step in the wrong direction.
Don’t give thanks this year – show and cultivate gratitude at every opportunity. Try it and see if your life isn’t measurably better in 12 months.