What happens to Thanks after Thanksgiving Day?
Rising above the complexities of Thanksgiving Day
For most, but not everyone, Thanksgiving is a day with lots of good things to eat, parades and football games to watch, family traditions to be celebrated. Yet, Thanksgiving can also get pretty complicated. In an atmosphere of deeply felt political opinions and even alternative “facts”, the togetherness once eagerly awaited can seem like claustrophobic affinity.
Nevertheless, during this special day, usually at the beginning of the meal, someone rises to the occasion and gives thanks for all the blessings of the past year. There may be mention of additions to the family, milestones achieved, significant people no longer present. If only momentarily people are united in giving thanks and saying Amen.
But today I ask what happens to all the ’Thanks” after Thanksgiving Day.
We seem to be slipping back into an entitlement mentality of very young children who do not think to say thank you. Think back in your own day to day experience. How many times do you hear a heartfelt “thank you” whether from members of your family, your coworkers, much less your boss? Of course, the flip side of that is how often have I said something more than a perfunctory thank you… or its digital equivalent?
I wonder if we have forgotten what we learned early on in life. Conscientious parents have always gently reminded us as children, “And what do we say when someone does something nice for us?”
Nowhere is that truer than in our relationship with God the giver of every good gift. How often has prayer been reduced to a litany of requests, if not something closer to demands. It is relatively easy for us to thank God when God delivers, does what we want. Even there we slip easily into taking our blessings for granted.
But the real challenge we face is to say thank you for everything we experience. For millions of Americans, this Thanksgiving will require people to dig deep within themselves in order to truly give thanks if they are homeless, broke, sick without health insurance or have exhausted hope that things are going to get better anytime soon.
We struggle with “All things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
The struggle to say thank you in all things
We can learn from the peasant in the Chinese fable.
An old man lives up on the mountain and he has only two possessions, one horse and one son. One day his horse breaks out of the corral and runs away and is gone. This is tragic. It means his livelihood. He can’t work his fields or do anything. So all the neighbors come and they are so distraught for him. They say, “Oh, what bad luck you have.” The old man replies, “How do you know it’s bad luck?” They all go home, shrugging their shoulders.
Sometime later his horse returns bringing with him six wild mares into the corral. The son runs to close the gate. Now instead of only one horse, the man has seven horses. When all the neighbors hear his good fortune they come excitedly saying, “Oh, what good luck you have.” But the old man says, “How do you know it’s good luck?” They all shrug their shoulders and return home.
Not long after, his healthy son is taming one of the wild mares and in the process, is thrown, his leg is shattered and he is crippled. When all the neighbors hear about this tragic event, they come to express their condolences saying, “Oh, what bad luck you have.” And again, the old man replies, “How do you know it’s bad luck?”
Not long after, a warlord comes through the village and drafts every able bodied man. Seeing this young son who can’t run or can’t march, he is left behind. And everyone exclaims, “What good luck ….”
The story doesn’t end there. It goes on and on and on. That’s life! From our tunnel vision we can’t always recognize good news from bad news, nor good luck from bad luck. Sometimes it takes us a while to see the blessing in events we do not like.
As Christians we realize this is the cycle of death and resurrection. And for all parts of that cycle we strive to say thank you. When we do we enter into the daily dying and rising with Christ.
Saying thank you every day… in all things
- Do we take the good things in life for granted?
- Can we see instances when something we thought was bad was actually a blessing?
- Do we accept and thank God for our daily dying and rising with Christ?