I was thinking about Thanksgiving coming up next week, and what it means to be thankful. In the first Thanksgiving, they were thankful because they had survived and pulled in their first harvest. That first year of settling and building and planting and growing must have been brutal. When the pilgrims crossed the ocean they did so with no guarantees. Actually, the only guarantee they had was that it would be hard. Leaving behind their certainty in Europe would be hard; crossing the ocean would be hard; settling a wild land would be hard. I am sure that when that first Thanksgiving came around- after they pulled in their first harvest from all their hard work- they were truly thankful. The harvest not only showed that they had survived the ordeal up to that point, it also meant that they had a chance at surviving the winter.
This was true for years and years- whole generations- in our country. People had to work hard, show discipline, make hard decisions during lean times, and survive. Only then did the harvest come around again, making people thankful- truly thankful- that they had survived another year.
I think that a real obstacle to thankfulness in our culture today is that we now live in the age of the 12 month, 52 week perpetual harvest. For most of us whatever we want, we can get right now. There is never a time when we lack anything. We can go to the store, buy our groceries, and have a Thanksgiving meal any day of the year. We don’t even have to have the money for it, because someone is always glad to take our credit card. We don’t have to wait for anything, we don’t have to dig deep and survive anything. We are living in a perpetual harvest. This isn’t true for all of us, mind you, but most of us. This perpetual harvest that we live in can make us blind to its presence. We can really not see the forest for the trees on this one.
You know where I bet some of the best Thanksgivings will be this year? In the northeast. New York and New Jersey. The folks who just made it through Hurricane Sandy and had weeks without power, heat in their homes, or gas for their cars will certainly have some of the most precious prayers of thanksgiving this year. It was a terrible event, but sometimes terrible events are what it takes to wake us from our complacent, plentiful lives.
It can be the loss of a job that makes us thankful for the new one, the loss of a loved one to make us thankful for the time we had, the loss of good health that makes us thankful for our very lives. If we think back, some of us not too far back, we can think of a time when we were forced to survive something. There have been times for all of us when we have had to look around at loved ones and say ‘I don’t have much, but I have you’ and then be truly, really thankful for it. I just hope that it makes up for the times that we are surrounded by plenty but completely forget to be thankful for it, even pouting about what we don’t have.
This year, I have much. I have good health, good marriage, good kids, good friends, and above all a good God, the recipient of my thanks. I am living in the harvest. What I have to remember, though, is to be thankful anyway, and not to be blinded to it, or even by it.
What are you thankful for?