Thursday, November 27, 2014

Want To Be a Rebel? Celebrate Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.  This has a lot to do with gravy.  It has a little to do with long-standing traditions, like watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in my pajamas, knowing that the next day I’ll be decking my halls and ushering in a month of holiday joy.  It has to do with the ever-changing company of friends and families we have shared the day with over the years.  But really, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because it speaks the language of my soul -- gratitude. 

But there’s more.  Thanksgiving awakens the quiet rebel in me, because to practice Thanksgiving feels a little divergent in a culture driven largely by consumption.

Nestled between the commercial giants Halloween and Christmas, Thanksgiving is largely overlooked by our culture at large.  In fact, in the last two years, Black Friday sales have moved earlier and earlier until they began to encroach on Thanksgiving Day itself.  The minute that the Halloween costumes are pulled from the shelves on November 1st, the Christmas trees and inflatable snowmen and gift ads appear and you can’t even grocery shop without hearing “Baby It’s Cold Outside” .... and it’s 65 degrees.  Now don’t get me wrong,  I’m thrilled that Thanksgiving gets passed over on the commercial front.  I’m not suggesting we start putting inflatable turkeys in our yard (the minute I typed this my husband informed me that there is, in fact, an inflatable turkey on our street).   But doesn’t it seem a little too convenient that the one day of the year we collectively set aside to express our gratitude for the things we already have is being hijacked by Black Friday which tells us exactly what more we need? 

You know the refrain, “Gratitude turns what we have into enough.”   What if that is true?  What if we spent a day reflecting with truly grateful hearts on the things we already have?  What would it mean for holiday season sales? 

It’s no wonder more and more stores don’t want to find out. 

About fifteen years ago, I decided to find out for myself.   I was twenty-one years old, about to graduate from college and was spending my last summer at Mizzou living in a brown recluse-infested basement apartment with three wonderful but not so tidy guys and a family of bats that resided in our kitchen.  I was reading all kinds of books about finding your colorful parachute or moving cheese that were given as graduation presents when I stumbled upon the concept of a gratitude journal and decided that I should give the practice a try.  I had not expressed much gratitude about the roof over my head that summer and felt like I needed a change of attitude before moving onto the next phase of my life.  I’ve been counting my blessings every since.  I had no idea how radically this simple practice would change my life.  There were seasons I was more dedicated to the practice than others, and over time the journals transitioned to family projects  with the kids, or an app on my phone, or an Instagram hashtag, or simply a mental note I made before bed, but always remained the most consistent form of prayer I kept.  Some days the world gives us so much to be grateful for, and those days the journaling came easy.  But on other days, much harder days, I noticed my heart still shifting towards gratitude for the things I took for granted.   The rise and fall of my husband’s chest as he lay beside me in my bed at night, alive and well.  The feel of the fabric of my new baby’s clothing as I folded what felt like the millionth load of laundry that week, laundry I got to fold because I had a baby.  The pantry full of food that did not make a tidy meal, but that was never, ever empty.  The blessed, blessed morning after a migraine headache.  And slowly, but surely, it did in fact turn what I have into enough.  More than enough.
Our family's gratitude tree.  I warned you about my photography skills. 

This practice has not been an absolute shield against greed or consumerism.  I still want things I don’t have, like a Clarisonic (because all the gratitude in the world is not going to give me glowing skin).   But, even as I typed that, without thought or effort, my gratitude-trained heart gently reminded me that to age is a gift in itself.  (This can be really annoying when you are in the store and actually have the Clarisonic in your cart and gratitude compels you to put it back on the shelf).

This is powerful, powerful stuff friends.  Gratitude is not just for cute quotes on picture frames and it’s really not meant to just come out to play on Thanksgiving.  It is meant to permeate our lives until it is expressed right back out of us, first in the way we think and then the way we live. 

So, you want to be a rebel?  Celebrate Thanksgiving today.  Want to change your life?  Keep celebrating tomorrow, and the day after, and the day after...

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