Friday, November 28, 2008

Thanksgiving and Gratitude

Erntedank - thanksgiving

What a beautiful and meaningful holiday this is. It’s probably my favorite holiday on the calendar. We are becoming a more and more secular nation. However, this holiday is as close as we Americans come to taking time to reflect and be somewhat introspective. Most of us “get it”, especially those of us who were born to Depression Era grandparents and Cold War moms and dads. Those of us who suffered through “trickle down” Reaganomics when the drips and drops of cash never quite reached those of us on the bottom of the socio-economic scale. We understand what it is to be truly thankful for the small things in life. We understand the spirit of this holiday.

There are still too many status-hungry materialists that miss the point of what it is to be truly grateful for what we have. Too many fail to understand that we have far more to be thankful for than what we bought at “SamLand” (Wal-Mart/Sam‘s Club) last week. As a subtle pushback against those who have missed the point, I would like to dedicate this post to those things I am grateful for that have little or nothing to do with wealth or personal possessions.

I am so thankful for good health. Anyone who takes this for granted should be required to visit a nursing home or hospital for an afternoon. I don’t have to park in a handicapped parking space. I hustle into and out of the supermarket with my arms full of bags without needing help from anyone. I dash up and down the aisles without having to ride a scooter and ask for assistance to reach items on the top shelf. I eat anything I want without fear that it will make me sick. All my parts work and I still have all my original equipment with no customization.

I’m grateful for independence. This includes such a wide category. It requires me to be thankful to so many people in my life and in my past. I’m fortunate that I have had good parents and family that cared for me until I could care for myself. I’ve had good teachers that taught me enough about the world that I could survive in it without being an excessive burden on society or placing myself under obligation to others. I’ve had role models and mentors that have instilled a sense of values within me that places me appropriately within society and my community. I see the need to contribute to the collective humanity and not simply consume the fruits of others labor. My country allows me to think freely and live in a world where ideas are cherished and unsuppressed. I’m grateful to every man and woman that has sacrificed their life to maintain this freedom and guarantee my continuing independence.

I’m thankful for meaningful relationships. There is no substitute for the lessons of life we learn through contact with other people. I’ve been embraced with compassion and cautioned with kindness. Through every relationship, whether friendly or not, I’ve learned more about myself and about the world. I’ve learned how to “be” and how “not to be”. I’ve felt acceptance from others when I couldn’t muster it for myself.

Finally, I’m thankful for peace of mind. After living for years under repression and self-denial, I’m so glad to just be myself. It’s a beautiful thing to live with a clean conscience knowing that the face I show the world now is mine, not a mask. There is no deception in my daily life. I can just be.

I hope everyone that reads this finds time to express their gratitude and thankfulness in a spiritual, non-materialistic way. Look for deeper meaning than the superficial traditions and religion we have been taught for years. Find meaning that becomes personal and unique to you and share it. In the sharing, perhaps someone else will find a deeper sense of thanksgiving than they had experienced before.

Photo Credit: Publik-Oberberg, on Flickr

No comments: