Thanksgiving Day is, hands down, my favorite American holiday because it's the one holiday that commerical greed cannot yet find a way to significantly exploit. Not even institutional religion can find a way to exploit it. It's just so ... pure.
All my Thanksgiving memories are low stress. Beautiful. Thanksgiving is about crisp fall air. Leaves on a lawn gone all but dormant. Sleeping late. GREAT smells coming out of the kitchen. My insistence upon REAL cranberries; none of this gelatinous, quivering dogfood quasicranberries dug out of a can.
Thanksgiving is about football. If you're a Detroit Lion fan, you can give thanks the game is only 60 minutes long. Thanksgiving is about great food that is so much more than food: it is a symbol of family and love and nurturance. Perhaps food is always that, but somehow on Thanksgiving Day is is eversomuch more so.
Thanksgiving Day is about the central way whether I know I'm living a life I respect: gratitude. When I respect myself, the primary evidence is that I'm grateful. That doesn't mean I can't recognize tragedy and loss. It doesn't mean I won't or don't suffer those tragedys and losses. It doesn't mean all my dreams have come true. Nor that all of them should come true.
But it means I am, at my core, grateful. For example:
My heart is broken for my eldest's broken heart, because a doctor told him a whimsical, unlucky toss of the genetic dice means he can no longer play competitive basketball. I feel his pain. And my own. But the pain does not still the beating heart of gratitude. See, a DOCTOR delivered this message to us. Not a coroner. Thanks be.
I grieve estranged relationships in my life, especially those with family. But, Thursday, I'll be sitting with my "family of choice." Which reminds me of a quote from author Richard Bach: "The bonds of family are not made primarily of flesh and blood, but of joy and respect in each other's lives. Rarely do two members of the same family grow up under the same roof."
Sobering, huh? So, sad, yes -- but mostly grateful that, in spite of what has worked out and not worked out, I'll be stuffing my face surrounded by joy and respect. I'll be with 'family.'
I am stupid rich in friends. My children are alive. I eat food every day. I'm forgiven. I have a vocation. I know the difference between good and evil. I sleep in a bed that has a roof over it.
I know I'm living well when I'm grateful. I know I'm healing when I'm grateful. I know I'm a good friend when I'm grateful.
I know that I'll see more of this world and its opportunities if I exchange whining and entitlement for gratitude.
Gratitude is the collision of humility and freedom. Humility is more peaceful in my soul than inflation. And freedom means I get to be free.
If you're not giving thanks, you've missed something.