Thanksgiving is not just a day but a season. It is no accident that the Christian season of Advent begins shortly after the US’s national day thanks. The whole season from harvest (preparation for lean times); to the diminishing of light (shorter days); to the anticipation of a new future (increasing light, warmth, another planting, and harvest); and the cycle repeats.
I use Christian language because that is my faith stream, but I’m aware of similar celebrations in other faith traditions. It is time to be grateful. We remember the creative, life-giving spirit that sustains us and all other life on earth.
As individuals, the Thanksgiving season calls us to remember those who have supported, encourage, challenged and assisted us: parents, teachers, coaches, counselors, spiritual leaders, our heroines, or heroes. None of us would have become the people we are today without a lot of help. That is true if we think we are “sitting on top of the world,” or are depressed and despondent.
Those of us who think we are primarily responsible for our success, must stop and remember the people who believed in us, called out our better efforts, and supported our endeavors (financially as well as emotionally). Likewise, when we see someone who does not “measure up” to our standards (no matter how broad or narrow those standards may be), then we must remember they too had “help” being pushed down to the place where we encounter them. In fact, where we observe them now, maybe a significant advancement over how they were a few months or years ago.
At the very least, we are called to give thanks that we could have easily found ourselves in a similar situation without the support we received.
Even if we claim to overcome “great odds,” or that the “deck was stacked against us” we had help along the way.
The story goes that a new patient went to see a psychiatrist. While explaining his reasons for coming he haughtily proclaimed his many achievements in business, personal wealth building, and his fame. To punctuate his successes he said, “… and I’m sure you’ll appreciate what I had to go through when you discover I was raised in an extremely dysfunctional family.” The patient waited for a response. The therapist looked up from his notepad replying, “There is no other kind.”
At every holiday, there are those who do not get the holiday because of their work. Keeping us safe (military, police or firefighter) maintain health (nurses, doctors, or other medical personnel) or care for us in other ways (those who keep the transportation system working, the power on, and countless other responsibilities). Thanksgiving is a time to remember them with appreciation.
Expressing gratitude is one of the signs of a healthy relationship: lovers, parents, children, communities, schools, hospitals, business associates, customers, as well as state, national and international leaders. But the appreciation needs to be real. We don’t say thanks to the state legislators who passed a tax bill giving the wealthy and small businesses breaks while putting the burden on the poor and those who attempt to assist them.
In the future envisioned by The Doorkeeper’s Secrets and other books in the Shelter Cities Series expressing appreciation is encouraged. Not only in person but also through anonymous commendations. The compliments are collected electronically and shared with each person during their annual visit with his or her counselor.
Of course, that is all in the future. But what about now? We often hear that our society is divided and becoming more so. What if we could find a way to celebrate and lift up those behaviors that are supportive and build up the common good.
From time to time the “Opinion Line” in the local newspaper prints a note of appreciation for “the stranger who found and returned my (wallet, driver’s license, cell phone, etc.) or paid for our meal ….” Appreciation is a good thing.
Maybe I disagree with much of what a person says or does, but observe an act of kindness, gentleness, or standing up for someone unable to do so without help.
What do you think readers? Would our lives be richer if we started looking for acts of compassion and respect rather than focusing on the dysfunctional all around us? If that occurred even in a small way, would that begin to create a greater sense of unity?
If we can begin to see good in others, and our culture perhaps we can address the conflict, anger, fear, and differences all around us. We must address our problems from a perspective of strength and stability—supporting one another may be where we start.