Deck the halls. We are in the middle of the Holiday Season. For one brief day, Thanksgiving Day, we contemplate all that we have been given and celebrate our abundant blessings. We give thanks for health, wealth, home, family, work and citizenship in a free country. We talk poetically about God’s great gifts.
It feels good. At least it feels good for a few brief hours. Then Thanksgiving Day shopping and Black Friday hit and the world of want takes over.
Children sit on Santa’s lap and are asked, “What do you want for Christmas this year?” Husbands and wives drop hints to each other to try to insure that the gifts they receive are what they want. Children write long and improbable lists of toys, electronics, trips to Disney World, ponies, puppies and baby brothers, and parents worry that there won’t be enough money to fund it all. Commercials and advertisements raise our level of wanting to the stars with the hope that we will give in and buy, buy, buy.
No wonder Thanksgiving is losing its importance. The day now marks the beginning of the Christmas shopping season. Being grateful and acknowledging our abundance doesn’t really fit in an economy based on consumption and buying more stuff. If we were really grateful, we would be happy with what we have. Our society encourages us to look up from wherever we are on the economic scale to those who have more. We have television programs that ask “Who wants to be a millionaire?” and others that examine in great detail the lives of the rich and famous. We teach our children to set their goals high, to always strive for more. We grouse that our coworkers don’t deserve to be paid more than we are paid because they don’t work as hard as we do. We want their jobs or at least their pay check. We wish for a bigger house, a nicer car, a faster snowmobile, a bigger truck.
We spend too much time looking toward those in the world that live in extravagance and excess. We become dissatisfied with the abundant gifts we have been given.
Obviously, this is not a tendency which has just developed in our twenty-first century society. Long before the first Christmas, Moses brought rules for living down from the mountaintop. Even then, God needed to remind the Israelites that they should not covet things that belonged to their neighbors. They grumbled because the Egyptians had enough to eat and they didn’t. They grumbled because some of their society had more power than others. They probably were fed up with wandering around the desert while other religious and ethnic groups had their own land and permanent places to live.
What happens if we look the other direction? How does our attitude about our lives change if we turn around and look at the part of the world that sees our lives as “up?”
What happens if we consider how it is for a family to try to provide the basics of life to their children on half our income instead of twice what we make? How does our home look if we think about it compared to the living conditions in a tent city or cement block slum in Haiti? Does the financial bind we put ourselves in to satisfy our wants seem worth it when we consider the struggle of others to provide the basics of life? How does our attitude about being too busy change if we consider the desperation of having nothing to do?
If we think we never have “enough” it changes how we think about everything. We are in conflict with our coworkers. We feel underpaid compared to those who are paid more. We think our employers don’t treat us fairly. We resent others’ wealth and success. We look at ourselves as failing in some way because we haven’t achieved the same level of wealth. We begin to believe that our spouse is a failure and hasn’t provided for our family well enough. We feel guilty because we can’t give our children the stuff they want. We lose sleep because we are fearful. Wanting more allows us to justify exploiting others and to neglect those we love. It alienates those around us, makes us sad, grumpy and bitter. We even take to blaming those who have less than we do. Wars are fought over who has enough and who doesn’t.
If we are always looking with envy toward those who have more, what does that do to our feelings about what is “enough?” Can we ever feel satisfied and secure if our goal is to acquire more than enough? If we don’t realize we have more than enough for our own needs, how can we share with others except to give them our castoffs? How can we have peace within ourselves, with our neighbors and in our world?
May Thanksgiving find you with enough good food to keep you nourished, enough fuel in your furnace to keep you warm, enough shelter to keep the wind out, enough work to keep you busy and an abundance of peace, love and health. May the Thanksgiving spirit stay with you through the holidays and for the rest of the year.
Copyright © 2014 Janet Jacobson and Sustaining the Northern Plains