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Take Time to Say Thanks

This article by Gregg McAllister was originally published in The Daily News (Batavia newspaper) on November 16, 2002. Its message is as fitting today as when he wrote it.

Sure, I love to eat. But that’s not the reason Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. It’s also not the reason I’m disappointed that Thanksgiving has become the forgotten holiday.

Any store you go into has aisles full of Christmas holiday decorations displayed from November 1 on. Many are featuring some Christmas decorations in October. Santa Claus was in Wal-Mart on November 2. Don’t get me wrong. I love Christmas. But in our excitement, are we overlooking a significant holiday? Perhaps we are also losing the spirit behind that holiday—the spirit of thankfulness.

It is easy to be complacent when we live in the land of plenty and have been safe from the experience of war for a generation. Granted, there are those who live in poverty in our country, but even in their poverty, the standard of living far exceeds most of the rest of the world.

As a Peace Corps volunteer, I lived in northern India, where large families worked long hours to raise enough food for themselves on farms that were smaller than the yards of many homes in Batavia. Electricity was available for a few hours every day. Running water in the home was a luxury or, more often, “ran” because you provided the muscle to work the pump. The United States is still the land of plenty when compared to so many other nations.

In the wake of September 11, 2001, many people vowed to spend more time with family. To be more focused on the simple things that enrich our lives. To stop and not just smell the roses, but to breathe deeply and reflect. Have we forgotten our promises so soon?

For most of us, our schedules are crowded as we rush from appointment to appointment. Kids participate in many things, often worthwhile activities, but perhaps we need to slow down and just spend some time enjoying each other. Arranging schedules to be together at dinner time might just be the most important “appointment” we can make.

In our microwave society, where we expect everything to be completed in about one minute, it’s easy to understand why we rush toward Christmas, a holiday celebrated primarily by the giving of gifts. However, if we receive the gifts, but aren’t truly thankful, we only build greed. Let’s take the time to be grateful.

It is logical to offer gifts to people we love after celebrating a season of thankfulness. The gifts become a true expression of our appreciation. Maybe this year, we could offer gifts of time rather than things. For example, invite friends to share a meal together. Take time to make something with your child. It could be a good learning experience for both of you. More important than the results is the time that you spend together.

I made a short list of things that make me thankful. I’ll confess I take many of them for granted, which is why it’s important to have a holiday that makes me pause to count my blessings. In no particular order, I’m thankful for:

  • A country where the leadership can change without the shedding of blood, even if the process looks cumbersome and, perhaps, antiquated. (Remember Florida in 2000?)

  • Food that is available in abundance. Just stop for a minute and look at the variety in our local supermarkets.

  • A furnace that works and a roof with no holes in it.

  • Public libraries.

  • A Heavenly Father who loves me despite my imperfections.

  • Black-eyed susans.

  • A family that is loving, active, and sometimes a little bit crazy.

  • Redbud trees in the springtime.

  • Chocolate chip cookies.

  • Going for a walk in the fall.

  • Bach.

  • Enough snow so I can go skiing, but not so much snow that I have to shovel the driveway.

  • Hugs.

I’m sure your list is different from mine. The important thing is to make a list, then thank God and your family, friends, and neighbors for those things that are on it. We teach our children to say “thank you,” but we need to relearn the attitude of thankfulness. It’s never out of season, and it deserves a holiday that isn’t squeezed between goblins and a jolly man in a red suit.

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