I had a feeling that I should wait to post something like this until the day after Thanksgiving. I didn’t know why until I got a text from one of my good buddies today. He said, “Happy Black Friday Eve, the holiday formerly known as Thanksgiving!” I literally laughed out loud to myself, because the comment was so true.
I had a fantastic Thanksgiving – it was good for my soul. But I couldn’t help but find myself a little disappointed in the Thanksgiving Day parade, with all of the gift references, sponsored floats, commercials, teen stars, continual references to the “live” broadcast of the Sound of Music, bad lip-syncing, etc. It’s nothing new. The parade has always been like that (it bothered me as a kid, so I never watched it), and Black Friday has been a thing for a long time. But it saddens me that every year, the stores open a few hours earlier, stay open for a few hours longer, and start referencing Christmas more and more as a tool for creating desire for objects. The focus of the celebration, to me, wasn’t on being grateful for what we have; rather, it was a loud proclamation to the world of what you SHOULD have. There was no giving of thanks in this. That gnawing longing in your heart for something that is not, nor ever can be, is a terrible pain. It afflicts every human heart, at one time or another. It is a terrible malady – a disease called ingratitude.
A story is told of a multitude of people seeking after the same destination – a beautiful Tree of Life on the banks of a fountain of water. A mass of people all set out on the same path to reach their goal, but along their way they are blinded by a great fog that rolls in and clouds their view. Some press forward, but others lose sight of the end goal and wander off and are lost – wandering in strange roads or drowning in the depths of the river.
There is a danger in being ungrateful. Ingratitude is one of the most unfortunate sins – a sin of which I am guilty of too frequently. It is unfortunate because it robs us of our sight. It distorts the true value of the world around us. It distracts us from what truly exists – what is actually attainable and what it is that we should attain. Ingratitude is a mist of great darkness, and lest we be careful, we may begin to wander in strange roads. We may find ourselves feeling alone, although we are surrounded by thousands. We may lose hope, and, unable to continue, drown in the depths of despair.
How blessed are we to know a solution to this problem! Gratitude is the lens that enables us to peer through the mist of ingratitude. Gratitude is the sunlight that pierces through the clouds and warms the world. Gratitude gives true weight and value to who we are and what we have, and helps us find what really matters.
Is it any wonder that our ancestors instituted a holiday where we eat abundantly and give thanks for what we have as the golden days of summer fade away, and the warmth of the sun grows cold? When real fog rolls in, and the nights grow long? We need this gratitude to survive the long winter months. We need to reflect. We need to remember. James Barrie once said:
“God gave us memory so that we might have roses in December.”
It is true that we can have heaven in our hearts, though our earthly home be a hell. Gratitude makes this so.
So as we start today, Black Friday, let us not lose sight of what we gained yesterday – a new perspective on what truly matters. Let us remember not what we lack, but what we have. Not what we want to get, but what we should give. Let us spend for others, and recognize that money and objects should be a means to an end, not ends in and of themselves. Gifts are given as vehicles for human virtues: compassion, service, mercy, love, kindness, charity, forgiveness, and above all else, that God-given grace we call gratitude.
I am grateful for family. I am grateful for the ability we have to change ourselves and the world around us. I am grateful for the talents of others that make my life so pleasant. I am grateful for what I possess, and more importantly for who I am.
So here’s to gratitude. I appreciate gratitude.