There is something wrong about Thanksgiving Day that I wish I could correct. It is only a "Day." I'd like to propose Thanksgiving Life or a Thanksgiving Year. At the very least, couldn't we have a Thanksgiving Week? By establishing this single day to oﬀer thanksgiving, we commit two errors: First, we relegate the virtue of gratitude to 1/365th of our year. Secondly, because we thus minimize it, we don't even do it justice on that one day. Rather, Thanksgiving Day has become the oﬃcial start of the Christmas shopping season. Up until just a few years ago, retailers at least observed Thanksgiving Day by closing their stores. Then came Amazon with its 24-hr online shopping power that forced the other retailers to expand their brick and mortar hours so that they invaded Thanksgiving Day, cheapening it to just a meal before shopping. Pathetic!
Perhaps in the spirit of commercialism, we should eliminate Thanksgiving Day. After all, every year we are forced to view the gratuitous shoving, pushing and fistfights that erupt among shoppers competing for in-store specials. Ah... such a spirit of Thanksgiving.
By having one day for this noblest of virtues, we imply that ingratitude, rudeness, and anger are fully justified throughout the remainder of the year. And while you tsk, tsk, tsk, my melodrama, I dare you to prove me wrong. Near-weekly school shootings, police overreach, road rage, terrorism and hate crimes, the partisan circus of hate and anger in Congress' impeachment hearings, the politically correct antics of the culture police on university campuses ... you get it because you hear the same cacophony of thankless hearts and ungrateful souls that I hear.
My soul pines for old-fashioned manners: Please, thank you, yes Ma'am, yes Sir, I appreciate you, you're welcome, my pleasure, etc. As a boy I read of honest Abe's honesty over a book fine of pennies, of George Washington's, "I cannot tell a lie," of Ben Franklin's list of virtues. That has all been discarded, both from today's textbooks as well as from today's culture.
A philosopher from two generations ago was fond of saying, "When gratitude dies on the altar of a man's heart, that man is well-nigh hopeless." Many of us fear our culture is becoming well-nigh hopeless. So, amid the noise of angry voices and strife and debate, I would like to suggest we all take a huge breath, a long pause, and then for several minutes let our tongues be animated with the foreign phrases of praise and thanksgiving and gratitude. I'm not talking about a token head-nod or a mumbled word of thanks on Thanksgiving Day before we engorge on rich foods. No, I'm talking about a mature look into our souls to find some terribly important values that have been lost in the noise of society's angst.
So many Americans are asking questions such as, "Must we accept this rude and crude new culture among us? Is there nothing we can do to restore American decency?" Well, yes, thank you for asking. May I please make the following short list of recommendations?
1. End each day and start each day by thinking of specific incidents/people for which you are thankful. We could be thankful for heat in our houses and a comfortable bed and a hot shower and nice clothing and the love of our partner and children, etc.
2. Write/email/text ONE thank you message daily. Be specific and brief, but feel it before you compose it.
3. When you are angry, stressed, or upset, turn oﬀ the radio, television, or device and take 30 seconds to find something for which you are thankful and hold that attitude of gratitude for those 30 seconds, until the gratitude dilutes the anger.
4. Practice gratitude and saying "thank you" to strangers, co-workers, delivery personnel, family ... everyone throughout your day. Write reminders on post-it notes and put them on your computer or dashboard.
This is a small start, but it will begin to impact YOU, and that, my friend, is the only person you can begin to change.
Enjoy your Thanksgiving Day. Spend it with your family. Don't call them crazy or write them oﬀ. They are YOUR family. Play some board games, reminisce, get outside and have a pickup game of football or softball. Laugh together and with each other. Shut oﬀ the political talk. Love them and express your gratitude for them.
A good friend told me that his family always shied away from one of the uncles. He was called "a little crazy" and "strange." When my friend got older, he was attending a funeral for a relative and the "crazy uncle" was there. The uncle called him aside and began talking with him, telling him he understood that he was the "crazy uncle." But he wanted to tell his nephew - my friend - about his life.
My friend was wary, but he listened and heard an amazing story of the D-Day invasion of France in World War 2 and how his uncle had landed in the first wave and saw so many of his friends slaughtered on the beaches and how he was shot and critically injured. As my friend listened, he realized he was talking to a war hero, a broken man who had left part of his manhood and part of his soul on that beach. The "craziness" began to make more sense and he felt gratitude for his uncle that transcended the years of snide remarks made by others. They embraced and the tears flowed from each man.
Your "crazy" family member may not be a war hero, but they are deserving of some attention and your love. Be grateful for whatever you have. Enjoy and celebrate Thanksgiving, not just on this one day, but 365 days a year.