Canadian Thanksgiving has just come and gone. For many people it was a time of getting together with family and friends and eating turkey and stuffing and mashed potatoes, while sipping tomato juice. It’s was a time of sitting around the table and sharing about the things that we are thankful for in life. It was a holiday perfect for a hike in the great outdoors, pumpkin carving and playing in the leaves.
I love Thanksgiving, it’s one of the my favourite celebrations. I think that as a person of faith this holiday reminds me to be thankful not only when sitting around the table and eating turkey, but each and everyday to give thanks. I’m starting to realize that there is a large correlation between how much I give thanks and how much joy I experience in my life. But having just celebrated Thanksgiving I want to recognize that for some people, being thankful is just plain difficult.
For some Thanksgiving is a reminder that their family is broken and full of dissension. For some, there is no sitting around the table giving thanks. The coming together of family only means fighting, tension and bitterness. Thanksgiving, for some, is a reminder of the deep sense of loneliness that they feel, the kind that hasn’t always been their companion.
For some, Thanksgiving means being unthankful.
As human beings we can experience every emotion under the sun. We go through seasons where it’s easy to be thankful and laugh and love others. We also go through seasons that are full of pain and it’s an inner struggle just to force a smile. Somebody asks you what you’re thankful for and you just feel like smacking them (we’ve all had this moment)! It’s what I like to call the “why me moment”: the moment where we give into bitterness and pity and we wonder why me, why now, why this, why not him or her, why why why?!?
I think asking why is a normal human response and sometimes we just need to shout it out loud and release it from our systems. The problem is that sometimes we pitch a tent in the “why me moment” and we don’t leave. We stay bitter, we stay mad, we stay in the place of self-pity, and we want the whole world to know it. We take every opportunity to let those around us know that our life sucks. We show it in our face, in our posture, in the way we walk and talk. We take jabs at people without thinking, our humour becomes edgier and we think about ourselves a lot. So easily, our “why me moment” can seep into a lifestyle of being unthankful. Ask me why I know this, I’ll tell you that it’s because I’ve lived there, staying in that place too long.
I used to work in a job where I did a lot of volunteer recruiting. The longer I did it, the more I began to believe that people needed to serve and be involved somewhere. They needed to help others because it affected the way they lived. I saw this regularly; someone would come into a situation feeling tired and blue and for one hour they would pour into the life of a kid, and 8 out of 10 times that person would leave in an entirely different mood. Thinking about someone else changed their situation, their mood and the way they felt about themselves. Giving thanks does the same thing. When we start to speak out the things we can be thankful for it begins to change our situation. Gratitude paints our lives with colour. Learning to laugh and speak our thankfuls in the midst of even our darkest days somehow enables us to move past the “why me moment.”
There is a place and time for brokenness, for tears, for anger, and even for the “why me moment”, but don’t stay there.
Don’t pitch your tent in the land of unthankfulness.
Force yourself to leave, even if it hurts. Find something to be thankful for, find someone who is worse off than you and show them some love. You might not even know in the moment why you’re forcing yourself to do it, but do it anyways.
Because sometimes the best things in life are worth fighting for, and thankfulness is surely one of them.