Part 2: Be grateful
“Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn’t learn a lot at least we learned a little, and if we didn’t learn a little, at least we didn’t get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn’t die; so, let us all be thankful.”
– Gautama Buddha
Next week on Thursday, I hope that everyone has plans to be with family or friends to gather for a meal. The meal doesn’t have to be turkey (or tofurky), and it doesn’t have to be laid out artfully (it could be a sloppy Joe or a BLT for what the food choice matters), but I hope that it is fulfilling. Being surrounded by a loving bunch of people reminds all of us that we have much to be thankful for. There is always a reason to be thankful.
Last week I discussed how Black Friday seems to detract from the value of a holiday seemingly centered on being grateful for the things that we have. I understand that Black Friday is advertised to get gifts for “everyone on your list,” which itself is a great concept (if slashed prices at the cost of getting up at 1 a.m. to get to a store and stand in lien is attractive to a shopper in some way). It helps stretch a dollar, the idea makes sense, but the cost is very high for the people working, and the choosing of “stuff” over proper time spent with people that we care about.
This time, I vow to be more positive. More grateful, even. Thanksgiving has some roots in Christianity (dating back to the Reformation), but today it is viewed as a more secular holiday, making it accessible to everyone. This means that there is less controversy in celebrating it. It is a day when we should celebrate the diversity in this country.
It also interests me that television shows and movies always position it as an extremely busy “volunteer day” at soup kitchens and homeless shelters. In the first season of “How I Met Your Mother,” we find Barney Stinson’s character (seemingly) doing some sort of good: volunteering in the kitchen at a shelter. When his friends show up (Ted and Robin) to volunteer, they find that the volunteer list is already full. It reminds me of what I see in lots of programming. I sincerely hope that soup kitchens and homeless shelters have so many people gearing up to volunteer on Thanksgiving that they have to turn people away. But my hope would be that these people might volunteer the day after, or the week after, instead. It is important to recognize more than once a year how much good there is to be had in our own lives, and how little things can help others in great ways.
I personally fall into the trap all the time of “woe is me,” “life is hard,” “why does this always happen to me?” Things get stressful, they get inconvenient, and they get downright hard to deal with and handle like an adult (I still struggle with the concept of “being an adult.” It’s a choice, I’ve found, in case you were wondering.) But in the end, most of us are either enrolled at IUSB, teaching at IUSB, working at IUSB, or at least living in or near a community that has re-sparked (the Michiana area in general). This alone is something to be thankful for. Thanksgiving is a time to remember that we need to take care of each other, to be thankful for each other, and to remember to sit down every once in a while and make a point to eat some sort of meal (whatever it consists of) with those that we care about. Because if you’re reading this today, it means that at least you didn’t die.