Friday, November 8, 2013

A Month of Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is just weeks away and we've already begun thinking about the meal, the family gathering, the travel, and maybe the extra calories we'll need to burn -- probably in that order.

I'm as guilty as anyone.

I ran across a bag of frozen turkey in the freezer this weekend and realized I needed to make a quick pot of soup and get that out of the way before the new bird came along.

Yesterday the girls and I worked on a Thanksgiving/fall craft. No, we don't manage that as often as I'd like. I'm not really Super Ma, but the baby was sleeping and we needed an activity that didn't involve running around the house and screaming. So we cut and colored and glued a turkey and tree, leaves and feathers. It was about the turkey, which is the meal, not the thanks, which is the reason.

Thanksgiving, if my school lessons and Wikipedia are to be believed, originated as a feast of thanksgiving for good harvest, a feast of hope that there would be enough to survive the winter.

While we've retained the feast aspect of the celebration, for most of us in America food is such an easy resource that we would never dream of giving thanks for the harvest (unless we happen to be the farmer for whom it pays the bills). Even those of us who have gone hungry, or who take time to be thankful for a meal, are more often thankful for eating it than for the fact that the food itself exists to be easily available -- consider that blessing in the light of famines and mass starvation in other parts of the world.

Whether we give thanks to God or not, or even believe, all of us (at least all of us who have Internet and can read this blog) have things we are, or should be, thankful for every day. While we may give thanks in some way for the big things -- the cancer scare that wasn't, surviving a near miss traffic accident, the new car/job/house -- most of us, me included, don't always take the time to be thankful, to feel blessed, for the everyday things.

We take them for granted, which literally would mean we are granted these things so there is no need to be thankful. And yet, if those things are taken away we would realize how valuable they were and that they were not guaranteed.

I don't know where it started, or when, but across Facebook and perhaps other social media as well, there is an effort to counteract that disregard with 30 days of thanksgiving. I think it's a wonderful challenge and a wonderful way to remind myself of the things for which I don't often take time to give thanks.

Sure, it's easy some days, especially in early November to rattle off a list of things. Loved ones, homes, health, work, etc., are the things most of us check off our thankful list pretty quickly. I know I'm working my way through that list myself.

But even in giving thanks for what I consider basic necessities, I don't think I really take time to acknowledge, even to myself, how much of a blessing those things are, how many people there are who do not have those things. While I've already been thankful for my husband, grandchildren, work, and health, among other things, I haven't really thought about the people who don't have those things or whose thanksgiving is saddened by the memory of having and losing those things. Shining that harsh light on my blessings makes me doubly thankful and makes me feel a little guilty.

So going forward through the month of thanksgiving, I'm going to try to do that as well. I want to not only recount my blessings in a way that makes me think about them and treasure them, but realize that even the things that spring easily to mind aren't universal. I want to remember that the things I sometimes take for granted when I post a status update are the things other people may envy, just as I sometimes am envious of my friends who are blessed differently from me.

And I want to try to cultivate more of a sense of being blessed instead of entitled. Because even though I am blessed, I do realize how quickly life can change and that those blessings can be gone very quickly.

I want to be thankful every day for what I am given, not just once a year during a Thanksgiving prayer. I want to more prayerfully acknowledge my blessings on a daily basis, even if it's an informal "thank you" for a walk in the sunshine, the joy of hearing a baby's laugh, a daughter's chatty call in the middle of the morning, or a husband's warm embrace when we are both finally home.

I'll start with 30 days of mindfully giving thanks and see where it goes from there.

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