Thanks and Giving
I’d like to sit here and write a beautiful Thanksgiving reflection, but truly Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day is my least favorite time of year. I probably just need some serious psychotherapy, but if one more person asks me what I’m doing for Thanksgiving, or tells me how many people they are entertaining, or how big their turkey is . . . I’m going to lose it! I’m sure there was a time -- like about 200 years ago -- when Thanksgiving really was an American holiday that celebrated our history. That’s long gone. Now it’s a competition, yet another excuse for shopping and spending, and the kickoff to the season of materialism -- all in the name of reputable traditions of course -- to save us from the shame of the reality.
Holidays nowadays are fraught with expectations, and I’ve learned that expectations are premeditated resentments. I don’t wait for the after-effect -- I get resentful during the expectation phase. What would happen if we set our expectations higher than those decided for us by television commercials? What would happen if the entire country sacrificed the turkey dinners, the Christmas parties, trees, lights, cookies, pies, gifts, etc. -- or even just a fraction of them -- and helped the people in the Phillipines or any of the other countless people who would be happy to simply receive a word of encouragement and hope? Better yet, what if we didn’t need a season to remind us to do these things but rather did them every single day of our lives?
I realize these traditions are all in the name of something good, but the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Instead of a cookie swap party this year, let’s have everyone bring the money for the ingredients and send it to the Red Cross. We could play Christmas music and write cards to soldiers. How about we invite those neighbors we never speak to -- the outcast, the elderly, the lonely? Why do we have to cram this all in from November to January? How would our lives and world change if this was simply part of our everyday life?
St. Paul reminds us in his first letter to the Thessalonians: “We urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, cheer the fainthearted, support the weak, be patient with all. See that no one returns evil for evil; rather; always seek what is good for each other and for all. Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.” That was written a heck of a long time before the American Thanksgiving holiday. And to think -- there was no mention of a turkey!
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