Count Your Blessings, Bah Humbug!
The Lost Art of Appreciating Who We Are
I’m the Thanksgiving Day Scrooge. I truly think that Thanksgiving is simply a sham, a humbug, if you will. It’s a day that makes us all feel a little better about ourselves for thanking God that we have enough.
As if God had anything to do with our good fortune.
If God is for us….
My mom taught me that Thanksgiving is a day to count your blessings, to thank God for all that he has given us.
But doesn’t that also make God a God of exclusivity? Does God look on me more favorably than those children I met at an orphanage in Nicaragua or the inner-city family that lives in a housing project? What about those poor slobs in Somalia?
Should Thanksgiving simply entail wiping the sweat from my brow and being glad that I’m better off than someone else is? While I have a certain abundance of things in my life—a nice home, a good job—can I call myself a “blessed person?”
What we are made of
Perhaps the solution is not to be thankful for all that we possess, but rather for all that we are as children of God. I know I forget sometimes that I am more than the sum of my achievements and possessions. When those things fade away there is still so much more than makes up the essence of a human being. I am someone who God cares enough about to reside within my being.
Being thankful or thankful being?
A good way to think about this is to consider the possibility of—while you are at work—a Mack Truck flying up the driveway and crashing through your bedroom and ending up in the middle of your kitchen. You would lose all of your very valuable possessions, including your home, but you would still be you.
Being consists not of things or even careers but something deeper. My essence of being consists of my ability to love and to be loved by others, my successes and failures that teach me, the capacity that I have to become more fully alive every day.
More than my career
One moment for me exhibits this spirit. I made a career change at the age of 30. I was a radio producer and reporter and was miserable. I wasn’t horrible at my job, but I found it unsatisfying. The longer I tried to make things work in this career, the worse things became. I was bitter and angry and most days I wasn’t thankful at all about my life.
But what was I to do? I was afraid that I wasn’t able to do anything else, that I was defined by this career that I had chosen at 23. It wasn’t until I realized, with some help from a counselor, that some of those same skills I was using could be used elsewhere (in my case, ministry).
I began to realize that I was more than my career. I gained confidence in new and unexplored abilities and redefined what I really wanted from my life. I realized that I wasn’t being grateful for all that I was, limiting my life to work I didn’t even like.
No, you can’t take that away from me…
So while I might appreciate all the things that I have, Thanksgiving is no longer a time to number the laundry list of “haves.” It’s become a time where I’m thankful for all that can never be taken away from me. God, who knew me before I was born, has defined my personhood, the part of me that will never cease to be. I am a child of God for all time.
So this year, as I say our family grace at Thanksgiving (we religious types always get roped into doing that), I’ll be mindful not of those things that I have but those things that I am. I’ll feel blessed by the fact that I am imbued with the same divine spark that defines us all.