I love fall. It’s my favorite time of year. The leaves change and it gets a little cooler. I love being able to use my fireplace, wear my favorite jackets, and bring out all my many colored scarfs! But I also love when Thanksgiving rolls around. I really enjoy Thanksgiving. I think it’s one of my favorite holidays because you get to spend time with family, don’t have to buy anyone gifts, but you still get the day off of work! It’s a win-win-win situation!
Three years ago on Thanksgiving Day, one of my closest friends went into labor with her first child. In fact, it was on my grandmother’s couch, waiting for the turkey to be served, that she watched all of us awkwardly watching her experience contractions. And so my niece was born! Which makes this time of year even more special for me!
Last night we had a birthday party for my niece. She had a blast playing with cousins and friends, eating cake, and being sang to. But then came the presents. Nothing gets a kid more excited than opening their pile of presents. She ooo and ahh’d, and squealed quite a few times with all the Frozen toys she got. (By the way, if you’re wondering how Disney stayed afloat this year, I’m pretty sure it’s from all the money they made off me in the Frozen department.)
Half way through her presents though, it hit me. She didn’t need this stuff. She didn’t need any of it. The words “rampant consumerism” kept scrolling through my mind like breaking news on Fox. I knew that this shouldn’t surprise me or that I shouldn’t be shocked by her pile of presents but for some reason, I suddenly wanted to gather most of her presents up and put them away from her; not forever, but just until she could learn to appreciate them. She would never be able to play with all her toys. And I had the desperate urge to pull her aside and have a talk about gratitude and thankfulness with her.
Now, I know. She’s only three and I may have been overreacting just a teensy bit (Me? Overreact? Never.). But I so desperately wanted to make sure she understood how blessed she was and to be truly thankful for everything she has. Sometimes I think we all could use a little reminder in this area.
Enter Thanksgiving. This is a holiday completely dedicated to giving thanks for everything we have. But do we take that opportunity or is it just a day we eat a lot and don’t have to go to work? I can’t help but feel that we have lost the art of being thankful.
Thanksgiving Day is now spent by many in line (in the freezing cold!) outside stores and in parking lots. People stuff themselves and then sit down and come up with a game plan for their Black Friday exploits. And are we surprised?
We have become a generation that created a culture of consumerism. We feel entitled to anything and everything we want. If we want it, buy it. Even if we know we won’t really use it or need it. Then we act surprised by the actions of the thugs in Ferguson? They are robbing stores for food, beauty supplies, Nike shoes, clothes, car parts, you name it. They feel they have some sort of right to it simply because they want it.
On a less extreme scale though, the average, non-thug American is guilty of this too. Heck! I’m guilty of this. I’m the one who bought my niece a nice chunk of the toys she doesn’t play with and the new ones that will litter her floor. I’m the one who taught her to expect a new surprise (no matter how tiny it may be) every other week.
But I want her to learn the art of gratitude. I want to learn the art of gratitude. We don’t take nearly as much time as we should to really appreciate the things we have; the blessings YHVH has graciously given to us. I don’t want her growing up feeling entitled and not being thankful for what she is given. I don’t want her to be consumed with always getting more and never being content with what she has. But it’s my job, as an adult in her life that loves her with all my heart, to teach her this.
It starts with me. Am I being thankful for what I have? Not just material stuff either. Those aren’t the important things in life. Am I thankful for every new day when I wake in the mornings? Am I thankful for the warmth in my house? Am I thankful for the family and friends who love and are there to support me? Am I thankful for my time with the people I love? For my time with YHVH? For my Bible? For my freedom of speech…which I exercise quite often.
Am I thankful for my health? For the use of my legs? For water to drink and food to eat. Am I thankful for my education? For my job? Or do I spend my time complaining about things instead?
And when I’m thankful, do I express that gratitude? Do I say “thank you” enough? Do I say “please” enough? Kids mirror everything we do. If you want to get an honest assessment of how you really act, just take a look at how your child acts. Chances are they learned that behavior, good or bad, from you; from the adults that are a major part of their lives.
Now, please understand. I am not saying that presents are bad. Or that buying stuff is wrong. I am simply saying that our want for more stuff should never outweigh our thankfulness for what we already have.
The art of gratitude is a skill that we must cultivate; first in ourselves, then in the next generation.
My niece has always been a worshipper. Before she was even two, she was at my house wrapping herself in a tallit (a prayer shawl) and listening to worship music on Shabbat. She prostrated herself on the Temple Mount last year on her first trip to Israel…without any prompting from anyone. She loves worship during our service and will push me through the door if it starts and we haven’t made our way in yet. She will make her way to the front during worship and loves to sing, dance, and simply be in His presence.
This is what I want to cultivate in her. This is the person I want her to be. I don’t want her to be spoiled or entitled or always wanting more. I want her to worship and be thankful to YHVH for all that He has given her.
But it starts with me.
And so I’m committing myself to periodically gauge my thankfulness level. I am a thankful person but I know there’s always room for improvement. After all, it’s an art, not a science. And because of the love I have for my niece and her future, I am committed to examining my life more carefully and will be more intentional about teaching her the art of gratitude.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!