Reflecting on Thankfulness
This one’s a short holiday post folks…
Perhaps it’s due to age that I pick at the meaning of things more than I feel I used to. I wonder sometimes why I can’t just think something like, “Hm, I’m really thankful for that,” without burdening it with lots of thinking. Although, I must admit, “just thinking” does not weigh on me. It’s an enjoyable way of spending time. I suppose it’s really just when I dwell on things for too long. Maybe, obsess would be a better word. That’s when the minutiae drags me down.
So, here I am thinking about Thanksgiving and its purpose. I’ve abandoned the too-simple history of Pilgrims and Native Americans joining together in peace and harmony. It just won’t get me to a place of gratitude. On the other hand, I don’t feel that sidelining inconvenient history helps either.
What I’m wondering is if thankfulness is a way of comparing one’s situation against those that might be less desirable. This could be in the actual or the abstract. For example, someone who has known persistent hunger being thankful that they no longer feel hungry. Also, a person who is thankful they live in a country where they are not being persecuted. Or, someone who has gotten a new job. To turn it around, someone who is glad they aren’t like those people. This could go on for quite a while.
Perhaps in these situations there is gratitude for a situation being as it is, but the word “thanks” seems different somehow, and I can’t put my finger on why. It is as if thankfulness is a cause/effect thing. At least that’s how it feels as I write this. To help clarify my thinking—what if the Grateful Dead were called the Thankful Dead? I feel that with gratefulness there’s some aspect of contentment involved, while when it comes to thanks, there is a recognition of some transactional thing going on.
As noted above, I pick at meaning more than I used to, so I don’t want to belabor this idea. Instead, I just want to ask that you pause for a moment and think about what is meant by being thankful. Maybe even think about why you’re thankful for that particular thing. Break it down, figure it out. It might tell you something about yourself.