Wednesday, November 21, 2012
Give Thanks Because We Can
From a traditional gathering to give thanks to the Almighty for the harvest, it's become a secular holiday that celebrates family, set to a ritualized schedule of televised parades and football games, accompanied by overeating.
And lately, it's the deep breath before the plunge into the madness of Black Friday. A day of rest before seasoned shoppers rise in the predawn dark to get the best deals on everything from toys to home theater systems.
So, ready...aim...FIRE! The true meaning of the holiday is lost, subsumed in a wave of commercialism and self-indulgence. Like Christmas, Thanksgiving is a symbol of Western greed and frivolous excess. It's a slap in the face to the rest of the world, where a full meal is by itself a cause for delirious joy.
But why don't you wait a moment before pulling the trigger.
It's true that modern Thaksgiving is a product of its time, and it's heavily hung with the trappings of a prosperous consumerist society. But what else could it be? We're not a nation of yeomen farmers, and haven't been for nigh on a century and a half. We're not subject to intermittent and inevitable famine, nor to the whims of a lunatic dictator who may choose to wipe out a tribal group because he put the wrong shoes on the wrong feet that morning.
So what is wrong with acknowledging the fact that the vast majority of the citizens of the United States lead comfortable lives, largely free from want and fear?
What is wrong with foregathering with friends and family to partake in traditional entertainments, cheering for the team with which we identify, and marveling at the balloons and floats in their triumphal procession through New York?
True, there is heartbreak and misery throughourt the world, but are we doing our God a service by smearing ash over the symbols of our good fortune? Are we going to increase out holiness through mea culpas and breastbeating?
Thanksgiving's all about symbols, and is it really any better to hate our good fortune than to appreciate it, and take a day to specifically enjoy it?
Neither will alleviate the pain of a hurting world, but if we take a day to appreciate what we have, aren't we more likely to return to The World with a more generous and energetic heart?
Generosity and effective outreach grow better in a soil watered wityh joy, rather than with tears.
So, go...enjoy the parades and the games and the food and the traditional family arguments around the dinner table.
And then, when the leftovers are finished, step out and do your bit to help the rest of the world. Do it in a spirit of joy and gratitude.
And wear steel toed-shoes for your Black Friday expedition.