It’s Thanksgiving week. For Americans, it is said to be the time of year to reflect and give thanks for what we have. That’s the idea at least. But from the outside, I hear it looks a bit different. I have had the pleasure of working with colleagues all over the world, and more than one of them has asked me what the heck is up with this holiday. They say it kind of seems like we miss the point. Is it a time of thanks, or is it the time of year when Americans gorge ourselves in the name of gratitude, and then turn around and trample one another for bargains? It’s almost comical.
As kids, we Americans are told this warm and fuzzy legend of the Native Americans and the Pilgrims coming together to break bread. Of course, there is a large part of that story that’s been changed in order to make us feel good. For example, the character of Squanto steps out of the woods and reaches out as a friend. But how did he know how to speak English? Turns out, it’s because he spent years as a slave. Click here to read about a new exhibit in Plymouth, Massachusetts that helps tell the Thanksgiving story from the Native American perspective. Refreshing!
Anyhow, I get all worked up over the shopping extravaganza that is ‘Black Friday’. I cannot for the life of me figure out WHY we spend so much time and effort on the perfect meal of thanks, and then turn around and freak out over shopping.
And what’s all of this business about stores opening on Thanksgiving DAY now to start the frenzy even earlier? K-Mart (and a few others) is opening early in the morning on Turkey Day and refusing to allow their workers to take the day off. While other companies, like Costco, take the stance that Thanksgiving is a holiday that should be spent with friends and family (duh). Lewis Black’s rant is pretty funny…
Each year it feels to me as if we place less and less focus on actually being thankful, and more and more focus on the stuff we can accumlate. More stuff, more happiness – right? Not according to many, including my hero, George Carlin.
Turns out comedians aren’t the only ones who criticize the materialism inherent to humans. Becoming Minimalist put together a fantastic list of minimalist quotes throughout time. A couple of my favorites that were represented in this list are:
Any half-awake materialist well knows – that which you hold holds you. — Tom Robbins
To live a pure unselfish life, one must count nothing as one’s own in the midst of abundance. –Buddha
If all of this shopping and material gain won’t make us happy, what will? What if we got back to the root idea of this holiday? What if we skipped the shopping and spent time listening to and caring for one another. Here is a new Thanksgiving tradition: share with one another our thoughts about gratitude. Give everyone a piece of festive fall paper and a pen and brainstorm for several minutes. Write down everything in our lives for which we are grateful. Then share with one another. How nice would that feel? Gratitude is contagious and it grows exponentially.
Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow. — Melody Beattie
Gratitude is also good for us! It helps us sleep better, is good for our bodies, strengthens relationships and promotes forgiveness. Can I get an amen?!
Another new tradition could be to find organizations that need volunteer help, and make a trip with the family. Food banks, and animal shelters are all working this weekend. Why not show our thanks by reaching out to those in need? I spent time volunteering at local food banks this past month, and will be up bright and early tomorrow to volunteer for my town’s annual Turkey Trot. And I’ll go deep here for a minute. Do you live near Indian lands? What if your family’s tradition was to spend Black Friday volunteering on the rez? I’m not sure what volunteer opportunities there would look like, but I’m guessing it would be an incredible experience.
Gratitude and thankfulness can and should be practiced everyday. I’m grateful that I get to walk my dogs. I’m grateful that I get to practice yoga. Grateful for the sunshine in my beautiful home state. Grateful for my friends and the amazing community surrounding me. Gratitude with every step. No purchase required. I’m overwhelmed with the abundance.
If you’re reading this, I am thankful for you. Thankful that you’re in my life. And if you’re thankful for me too, I don’t need the new electric sock warmer you got me on Black Friday – I’d much rather connect with you and give you a hug. That, to me, is priceless.
May you all have a Happy Thanksgiving filled with Peace and Love!!
Check out the following to learn more about inviting gratitude into our lives:
- A Practical Guide to Gratitude
- 7 Tips to Cultivate Gratitude
- Turn Pain to Joy: 11 Tips for a Powerful Gratitude Journal