There was a time in my life where my Christmas list was done in August, where the measurement of my end of the year enjoyment was based upon what I received and what was done for me, and music, lights, fall spirits and winter chills were ancillary, inconsequential, to the gifts to come. And while it isn’t Christmas yet (regardless of what the radio and Target says), if I were still a kid, it would be by now–it would have been since about three months ago.
As a by product of that thinking, Thanksgiving became a through station to the “better” holiday, a stop-off, a good meal, between this moment and Christmas, and thus, wasn’t deserving of real thought or of real meaning because it didn’t really matter. And while I’ve grown up a little and that thought has changed–largely, as a part of “the people,” the populace, we’ve only gotten worse.
Now, this isn’t a post about how Black Friday is ruining us all, or about the perceived greed that has permeated the entire Christmas season, but rather, it’s about Thanksgiving, (which things are never about) slowing down and being thankful, and what that really means.
When I was younger, if I remember correctly, I had a hard time being thankful. A lot of me attributes that to me being an “only child” (only child in quotes because I have three siblings, all of whom are much older and were out of the house when I was still pretty young) which may or may not be true, but it was a real thing, an emotional, draining sort of thought that I look back on now and cover my eyes because of the brat I probably was.
I work with kids on a weekly basis, specifically five to seven year olds, and if ever there was a group that could be self-centered it is that group, that age-range, where abstract thought has not yet set in, only the concrete “me” and “my.” It provides me a window into those memories where it was another friend’s birthday and it was all about them, but I needed to receive a present too, where a surprise party was planned, but I needed to tell the person because, God forbid they actually get surprised. And I feel conflicted when looking back on those moments because on the one hand, they’re appalling and they probably should have been exorcised out of me the first time they appeared, but on the other hand, I was a kid and kid’s are notoriously selfish so if I wasn’t acting accordingly in some sort of way, then what kind of kid would I have been?
But I’m an adult now (or I should be anyway) and I still see that way of thinking around me but in a way that’s less innocent than a want for a toy or to be the one to surprise a friend before everyone else does. We push, we pull, we cheat, we trample, we lie, we steal, and sometimes kill, all for what we want, with little remorse, and even more so at this time of year.
It’s weird. As I got older, sure, I remained selfish–I’m human, sue me, it’s in my nature–but I managed to rein it in a semblance of sorts that would allow me to function as a man. But for some people, it never goes away and their greed is that of a six year old, which makes the holidays an odd time of year because it is, weird as it may seem, about thanks.
So what is thanks? What is being thankful? Why shouldn’t we just toss it to be forgotten under the bed or in the closet while we go about our avaricious ways?
an expression of gratitude.
That’s it. It’s that simple, but for some reason, along the way, we forgot about thanks, about the holiday that has a name that tells us what to do with it, and replaced it with something…else.
It’s okay when we’re younger to only care about the gifts, about the “me me me” and what I can do (though, parents–moderation. Curb that somehow, else your kid grows up to be horrible), but there’re more important things when you get older than $20 off $300 worth of golf clubs, and it tends to be something you can’t buy.
It sounds cliché: “The best things in life are free,” but it’s kind of true sometimes. Family, friends, time, memories are often times things that just happen during the season, not things that exist at the bottom of a bargain bin, and while their value then seems less than a deal on shoes or a new TV, there’s actually more to it than a sticker price. Family goes quick–you move, you separate, you drift apart gradually, and that time is valuable. It means something, and while it may be bonding to give gifts and receive them, to shop for them, and find deals on “that one special thing,” giving thanks, being thankful, is giving gratitude and love, and how we act everyday, especially during the holidays, should be a direct reflection of that.
So do what reminds you of the love you’ve been given, and love in a way that gives thanks. If it’s shopping, then great, if it’s giving gifts, wonderful. If it’s going on a trip or getting coffee with someone or watching a movie curled up as a family, then do it, do it all, because this is the time where thanks and love and joy and gratitude are welcome and wanted and needed daily since there’s a little too little of that going around.