NORMAN — Why do we reserve all of our holiday rage for Christmas and let Thanksgiving slide by without a scrape? Christmas is too commercial. It’s too busy. It’s all about presents under a tree. And who has a problem with that? It’s the adults, of course. Have you ever heard a kid complain about Christmas? With all of the adults grumping about Christmas, it’s no wonder that it’s such a dismal season for so many.
If you ask me (and you’re thinking, “But, I didn’t ask”), I think it’s time that we tie Thanksgiving to a post and give it a good flogging. Talk about your holidays gone wrong.
For starters, we flunked American history if we think that the pilgrims and Indians gathered around a holiday table to pound down a shared feast. How is it that we imagine that the Native Americans were feeling festive about the arrival of Europeans who brought with them, among other things, diseases that decimated the native peoples? But, I’ve flunked enough history tests in my time, so let’s move right along.
Let’s talk menu. Turkey cooked until it was drier than last year’s corn shucks? With all due respect to Grandma, buy a meat thermometer. Gravy made with random bits of turkey parts which should be tossed down the garbage disposal? Not on my cornbread dressing, thank you very much. Pies made from gourds that are best used to carve up into scary sights at Halloween? Pass the apple pie, please!
How is it that we righteously complain about Christmas excess as we gorge ourselves with Thanksgiving grub? Am I missing something here?
Am I getting too grouchy here? But, I’m just getting warmed up.
If you look up “all about me” in the dictionary, you will find Thanksgiving’s picture beside the definition. I’m thankful because I have a great family, live in a nice home, pastor a wonderful church, have good health (OK, my doctors don’t read my blog), have the best friends, and on and on it goes.
Am I really thankful because it’s good to be me? It’s no wonder so many people love Thanksgiving so much. Talk about your self-absorbed, self-indulgent celebrations. Christmas can’t hold a candle to this.
Don’t get me wrong. I have been blessed with all of this and more, and I am thankful for those blessings. But I also remember that a Jewish rabbi said, “Take care. Protect yourself against the least bit of greed. Life is not defined by what you have, even when you have a lot.” Did Jesus get it wrong?
According to an article by Bonnie Kavoussi in the Nov. 15 Huffington Post, “Households that make at least $100,000 per year give an average 4.2 percent of their discretionary income to charity, (and) those that make between $50,000 to $75,000 per year give an average 7.6 percent of their discretionary income to charity.”
If having things or being blessed is cause for thanksgiving, then wouldn’t having more things and being more blessed cause even greater thanksgiving? Apparently not.
I know the standard answer: ”It’s not what we possess, it’s what possesses us.”
Honestly, if the wisdom we live by can found in a greeting card, it is probably as priceless as the card itself. It’s time to rethink Thanksgiving and thanksgiving. Oh, I’m as thankful as the next person. Really. But some of my blessings are curses. I worry about losing them. I want more of them.
It seems to me that thanksgiving should be something more grand than this. It should rise above things that are elusive and temporary. I’m thankful that I’m part of something that transcends me, something that can exist without me. Maybe that’s why nature inspires me and why genius — intellectual or artistic — lifts me from everything that is otherwise dismal.
I’m thankful to be a part of a life’s work that has the potential to make the world around me whole, and that always tempers my thankfulness because my work doesn’t always live up to its potential. If Thanksgiving isn’t good for everyone around me, how can it be good for me?
So let’s get off Christmas’ back and give Thanksgiving a well-deserved lick or two.
And pass the turkey and dressing, please.
Jim Shepherd is pastor at Goodrich Memorial United Methodist Church.