As I have said in the past, Thanksgiving is a holiday that seems to be fading into the background noise of Christmas. This bothers me; a lot. For all you people out there thinking, “Well, bah humbug to you too, Ms. Scrooge” – I do love Christmas. I’m actually pretty goofy about Christmas. I decorate inside and outside, sing carols around the house and in the car from the end of November through New Years Eve, bake cookies, make candy, and spend a great deal of time and effort picking out special gifts for the people I care about. I just like starting all that AFTER Thanksgiving. Most times it is the day after Thanksgiving – at least for the exterior decorating because this girl does not under any circumstances participate in the Black Friday nonsense. I think I have some form of PTSD from all the years I worked retail and had to work on Black Friday.
To me, Thanksgiving is a time for gratitude and reflection. It can be a uniquely American holiday but it doesn’t have to be. We could all use a great deal more gratitude in our lives. As a mother, I work hard at instilling a sense of thankfulness in my kids for what they have and to focus more on needs than wants. As in you need a new pair of shoes but you want the [insert name of whatever brand is hot] pair. I can afford their needs but frequently I have to say a firm “no” to their wants. My kids may be disappointed but they understand that they should express gratitude for what they are given because that pair of shoes they may see as lame would be appreciated by someone with no shoes. At this time of the year, I double down on the whole “be happy with and take care of what you have before focusing on what you want” with my kids. Before they can even start a Christmas List, I ask that they go through their toys and separate out what is still in good condition that we can donate to charity. I also limit the number of things that they can put on their lists to 10 items. That way they have to think about what they want. They know that they won’t get all 10 items but this ensures some mystery about what will be under the tree.
I think we all have our moments of ungratefulness, that split second (or longer) envy when your friend gets the new car/TV/appliance/vacation/etc. that you’ve been wanting but can’t afford because of all the bills or the kids need braces or the car just died. At least I know I have moments like that. When they happen I have to stop and remember that it’s not about getting what I want when I want it. I have to look at and appreciate what I do have. If you spend your life focusing on what you don’t have, you run the risk of missing or losing what you do have. My life may not be perfect and at times I suspect it may serve as a cautionary tale to others but it’s mine and I’m pretty thankful for it. Everyone has at least one friend, family member, or acquaintance who is oblivious to the blessings in their life such as true friends who stand by them/love them no matter what, basic necessities, family who love them, health, etc. and instead they chase those things that, or people who, in the end won’t bring them true happiness. It’s hard to watch and harder still to pick up the pieces in the aftermath but we do it anyway and silently give thanks or hope that we do not make the same mistakes, but all too often we do.
Our culture in America doesn’t help either. Every time you turn on the TV, listen to the radio, log onto social media, or pick up a magazine we are bombarded with consumerism, as though the pursuit and acquisition of stuff or a particular image will make our lives perfect. There’s a pressure to live above and beyond our means that we as adults find hard to resist. People go into debt each Christmas to buy toys that will end up broken or discarded by March, if not before, just so the kids have a “good” Christmas. Instead of sitting around after Thanksgiving dinner this year enjoying the gift of time with family and friends, there will be people who rush through dinner just to make the sales at those stores who are opening Thursday night or they will cut short the time spent with family or friends to get sleep so they can be up early or camp out in a line for the stores that will open early on Friday morning. In my opinion, there is no deal you can get, no purchase you can make, that will be worth losing one moment of time with the people you love and who love you.
My annual rant is done and maybe I gave someone something to think about. From my family to yours – Happy Thanksgiving everyone and may you realize how blessed you truly are.
Mairead Walpole is the pen name for a somewhat introverted project and contract manager who has 20+ years of business and technical writing under her belt. In her spare time, Mairead writes paranormal romance among other genres. Her first novel, “A Love Out of Time” is available through Second Wind Publishing (www.secondwindpublishing.com) or Amazon.com.