It’s Thanksgiving again! And we all know what that means: pumpkin pie, relaxing time with family . . . and a whirlwind trip to the mall on Thanksgiving Day so we can wait in line to buy a flat screen TV.
Of course, we need that flat screen, and we need it right now. We can’t even wait until 4 a.m. because by then all the 70-inch ones will be taken.
No, we have to have it right now because otherwise we’d just be sitting around on Thanksgiving night talking to each other and being grateful for our blessings and really, how boring is that?
So of course we have to pile into the car on a national holiday in order to shop because if we don’t buy that flat screen today, right now, the terrorists will win.
Let’s just take a breath, people. And let’s contemplate the irony.
Thanksgiving Day is a whole day set aside to be grateful for the things we already have, not to trample one another in our mad stampede to get even more.
Recently I’ve been reading a couple of books on gratitude by Robert Emmons, a professor of the “positive psychology” movement. (Yeah, that’s a thing.) In Thanks!: How Practicing Gratitude Can Make You Happier, he presents loads of research on the ways we can step off the treadmill of more-more-more and focus on the many blessings that are smacking us upside the head to get our attention.
One helpful distinction Emmons makes is between nongratitude, which is a failure to recognize or acknowledge blessings, and ingratitude, which is an almost willful turning away from those blessings.
A nongrateful person is one who doesn’t say thank you regularly because he has no real idea what life would be like without family, a good job, an education, and a roof over his head. It’s not that he wants to be unappreciative, but like most of us, he’s pretty clueless about everything he has until something bad happens and those benefits are in jeopardy.
An ungrateful person is one who constantly finds fault with his life – sure, he has a roof, but it covers an ugly house and he deserves better. He has a job, but he knows he should have been promoted years ago, since he’s much smarter than everyone else on his team.
We all know people like that, folks who have crossed the line from the sleepy ignorance of nongratitude into the carping selfishness of ingratitude. And maybe right now we’re patting ourselves on the back that we’re not in that latter category . . . all while we put on our hats and coats to brave the shopping malls on Thanksgiving night.
And there’s the problem.
When we show such utter disdain for the one national holiday that is devoted to cultivating gratitude as a practice, we’ve crossed that invisible line between nongratitude and ingratitude. We have made a conscious choice to be dissatisfied with what we have on the one day we’re encouraged to be glad of it.
This Thanksgiving, let’s make a choice to be thankful, not greedy. That 70-inch can wait.