Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Did Thanksgiving Happen?

How is it possible that we're in the middle of December already?!?!

It honestly felt like we just celebrated Thanksgiving last weekend...or did we?

Every year I'm amazed by the speeding bullet train that carries us along after the week of Thanksgiving break. Every weekend in December is chock full of holiday parties and gatherings, visits from relatives, on top of the USUAL baby showers and birthday parties because people don't stop being born just because it's the holidays.

And of course I love it. I am a Christmas fanatic and nothing lights me up like holiday cheer. In your head, just picture Will Ferrell from Elf.

But seriously, what happened to Thanksgiving?

I remember vaguely, on the day of Thanksgiving, I combed through the internet looking for a good article on giving thanks. I would have loved to see something in the New York Times or Huffington Post about the science behind cultivating gratitude.

It could have read: Thanks Giving: how not to suck so much at being grateful.

The intro paragraphs would cite multiple well known positive psychologists and how they all agree that being thankful is one of the most important, if not THE most important traits for human flourishing and mental well-being.

Then the body of the article would explore all the reasons why humans are prone to discount what they already have, take things for granted, and have gratitude-amnesia when it comes to the good things in their life.

And finally it would conclude with tips on how to cultivate gratitude. Not just some rote recounting of things that we OUGHT to be grateful for - but some real heart-hitting activities that make us feel truly, truly, truly grateful.

Because I needed an article like that. I still need an article like that.

I want my thanksgiving to move beyond an academic acknowledgement of my relative position of privilege as compared to 99% of the world, and into a real, genuine, emotion-filled out pouring of wonder and awe that I should be so lucky. So blessed. So unbelievably blessed.

On thanksgiving day we went to a soup kitchen to serve food to the homeless. I felt like it was high-time for Judah to actually see people who were in need. I always tell him how lucky he is to have an abundance of food and shelter, but it's all theoretical to him when we live in a nice secluded suburb, far away from any kind of real material lack.

Mommy, you always say there are poor people, but how come I never see them?

That's a good point son.

Judah happily serves himself at the soup kitchen.

And so we went to witness poverty. Within 10 minutes of entering the soup kitchen Judah announces that he's bored to death and pleads fervently to go home.

I'm not sure what was going on in his head, but I think Judah was underwhelmed by poverty. Homeless people look just like us. They seemed just like regular people and there was nothing particularly exciting or entertaining about serving food to them and interacting with them. In fact, it was pretty hard to pick out the indigent from other people who were just there to help.

And therein lies the truth -- but for grace, there go we.

What separates us from those who have no shelter, no human capital, no possessions and no reasonable opportunities for advancement? Who have little executive control, resilience, optimism, and grit? Who have not the means to obtain means?

Gifts. Many, many good gifts.

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