Thanksgiving used to be one of my favorite holidays; it was a close tie with the 4th of July. And now I think the girl who used to love those holidays was perhaps a little more ignorant and a little less cynical than the woman I am today. Because today I am sick of the obsessive need for symbolism over substance in this country, in this world. It seems to me that people are more content to talk about or honor things that are important to them rather than actively change their lives to reflect their own values. We would rather put plastic pink ribbons on our bumpers than donate money to breast cancer research, we would rather donate money than go sit with a woman while she receives chemotherapy or stuff envelopes and sweep up at an understaffed nonprofit. We would rather drop 50 cents into the bell ringer’s bucket than offer to share a meal with a smelly homeless person. We would rather change our facebook status to “support” the newest trendy cause than actually support it and we would rather spend one day pretending to be thankful than to actually live lives of gratitude. If Black Friday doesn’t demonstrate what a joke Thanksgiving is, I don’t know what does. On Thursday I’m thankful for everything I have, but on Friday I have to go out and buy bigger and better things to be thankful for, cause what I’ve already got certainly isn’t enough.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a Thanksgiving hater. I love stuffing my face with turkey just as much as you do. But let’s be honest Thanksgiving isn’t about giving thanks, it’s about food and family obligations. It’s about traditions that have lost their meaning and the perpetuation of materialism. And oh yea, it’s about football.
I have nothing against a day designated to family time and a big meal, but I’m not sure that’s what we’re all really doing. I mean I wish there were more days in the year that I spent with our family- but if I want to see my in-laws and my nieces and nephews, shouldn’t I just see them? Why wait until November and December? Just like I don’t need Easter and Christmas to remind me of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection and His gift of salvation (I should be cognizant of that every day as a Christ follower); I don’t need the 3rd Thursday of November to remind me that I have family I love and many things to be thankful for. And in reality don’t we spend more time worrying about how to cook the perfect turkey, if we baked enough pies or whether or not we’ll be able to catch the big game than being thankful? Don’t we spend our holidays more stressed out than grateful?
Sometimes the canned list of blessings we’re thankful are slowly etched away by the reality of this life. Sometimes you find out what you are truly thankful for by living a life absent of family, wealth, and health. The trite confessions of I’m thankful for my wonderful family, friends, and job don’t resonate when you’re mother is slowly dying in a nursing home and doesn’t remember your name, when your father who doesn’t have Alzheimer’s doesn’t seem to remember your phone number, when your siblings betray you and only see you as a free baby-sitter or an emotional punching bag and when you spent the better part of 2011 unemployed and looking for work. The truth is I’m not lamenting the endless trials this year has given me. I am not thankful for the heartache I’ve experienced but I am thankful for the perspective I’ve gained. I have truly learned how blessed I am and what I am thankful for. I’ve truly learned the definition of faith because it’s been tested. And honestly I am ending this year with a joyful and grateful heart, but that would be the case with or with out a national holiday.
This Thanksgiving, for many different reasons, Mark and I didn’t experience the traditional family get-together. But we did make lasting memories of our own and we definitely have stories to tell for years to come (ones that require a completely separate, hilarious blog post). With or without the turkey and stuffing I am thankful. I am thankful for time with my husband and the ability to laugh at the ridiculous. I am thankful that God is faithful, consistent, and never changing when I am wavering, fickle, and stubborn. I am thankful that I have a husband whose faith is strong, who is a comfort and a strength, who loves me with all my flaws, and who is really good in bed. I am thankful that hard times have shown me that I have a handful of amazing, dependable friends who share their love and lives with me. I am thankful that I have clung to some idealism and haven’t been given over completely to cynicism. I am thankful for the small pleasures of afternoon walks, cups of delicious coffee, and hungry, bushy tailed squirrels that frequent our back porch. I am thankful not only for my job but for a job that I love and for a work environment that is supportive and warm. I am thankful for God’s amazing, if not confusing, timing. I am thankful for all the wonderful and hopeful blessings that I know are coming our way in 2012. And I am thankful for God’s strength and peace that got me through 2011. And I’m thankful for all these things almost everyday, not just on Thursday.