So often, when Thanksgiving rolls around, which it does in the US every fourth Thursday in November, the question arises: what are you thankful for?
I think it’s also significant to ask, To whom are you thankful? But that’s a separate discussion. For now, I want to focus on what generates in us a thankful spirit.
Wikipedia says the early thanksgiving days in the US, starting as early as 1621, were set aside to thank God for things like a plentiful harvest and for military victories.
But when Thanksgiving Day arrives, what are we thankful for in the twenty-first century? We hardly know when harvest comes and goes. Oh, sure, the leaves turn wonderful colors in the fall, and pumpkin patches pop up even within the city limits. Of course the vines have been cleared away and the pumpkins, if they haven’t been trucked in, are properly arranged to make choosing the desired vegetable an exercise much like shopping for any other thing we want. Harvest? Who worries about harvest?
As far as military victories are concerned, we have Veterans Day (just celebrated), Memorial Day, and the Fourth of July. Who needs another day to dwell on what the military has done for us?
In all likelihood, family is the first thing most people will say when they’re asked what it is they’re thankful for. Some might go so far as to say they are thankful for good health or for their home.
We rarely get to our job, and choosing to be thankful for co-workers and for our boss—well, that may be a stretch.
Have we simply become an unthankful lot? That might not be so far from the truth. After all, we’re pretty close to brainwashed by the media and the advertisement world that we deserve this great thing or that great thing.
In other words we are becoming an entitlement culture. It’s pretty hard to be thankful when we think we deserve to go on that cruise to Alaska or to have that life insurance policy that we can turn into cash if need be, or whatever else, whether the slogan is “You deserve the best” or “For the style and service you deserve” or “Your dog deserves ___.” If we deserve it, will we really be thankful for it?
We may not give voice to the idea that most everything we have, we deserve, but I suspect that’s our underlying conviction. We deserve to retire in comfort and ease. We deserve a safe work environment. We deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. We deserve food on our table. We deserve schools that will teach our children what they need to know. And on and on.
But when did the amazing benefits and blessings we enjoy stop being privileges and start becoming things we deserve?
Take reading, for example. Once upon a time, the literacy rate in the US was roughly eighty percent—of the white population. The literacy rate of slaves in the 1600s and 1700s was a different issue.
Then in the 1840s school began to be mandatory and literacy became higher. Of course, the African-American population had major ground to make up, so the total literacy rate was good, but not great. However, in the 1980s and 1990s, literacy in the US was at an all time high of approximately 98%.
So, do we ever stop and thank God that we can read? Or do we take literacy as an entitlement. Of course we can read because we all deserve to go to school, we all deserve to learn. As much as learning seems like a right, much of the world still does not enjoy what we take for granted.
We spend much of our time and space here at Spec Faith discussing books which we’ve read. Sure, movies we’ve seen, too, but books first. And yet, reading is something God has given us which we so rarely give thanks for. And books. Think of all the books, either ones from the public library, school library, personal library, or more recently, stored on a reading device. Ca we even count how many books we’ve read in our lifetimes? How many of those have we thanked God for?
I’m mostly talking to myself here. I have taken books and reading, and even fantasy (which I love best), for granted. It will be there. Always. Whenever I want to crack a book open, I’ll be able to do so. But what a different world this would be without books. How different my life would be if I couldn’t read.
How much my cavalier attitude toward something I love so much, shows my lack of gratitude.
Should I start a list of “What I Am Thankful For” that I can read on Thanksgiving? That would be a start. But why make a list and not just go ahead and start thanking God every day for something that I normally take for granted.
So I wonder, what other things fall into that same category?