Thanksgiving again to the rescue

DG Martin

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, and I wrote about it in a column many years ago.

One of the reasons is that this is one of the very few days that we have reserved only for families and friends. We did a better job of keeping the Thanksgiving vacation from slipping away. He has not yet taken charge of our lives. No disguise with new clothes, no mailing cards, no gifts to buy and wrap, no parties, no alcohol, no high expectations to crush, no embarrassing failures to do the right thing . Somehow, we’ve mostly centered it around our family dining table.

I love Thanksgiving because I still own it.

It all sets Thanksgiving apart from the Christmas we have blurted out. We are Christmas slaves and he is a tough master. It sometimes puts us in such a state that the most rewarding moment of the season is its conclusion.

The central theme of Thanksgiving is the happy ritual of the family meal. It takes us back to a time when we used to sit together more often, serving each other, passing food, carving out the main course, saying prayers of thanks, and listening to each other’s stories. Is this, however, simply a holdover from times past? I think it’s more than that. It can be our own family sacrament deprived of remembrance, reunion, renewing bonds, and gratitude for the blessings of life.

If Thanksgiving is so good, why do families so rarely officially sit down at their own dining room tables to have their meals together these days? Is it because our schedules take us in so many different directions from each other? Maybe, but even when we’re at home together, a favorite TV show calls us into the den to bring our plates and watch. And when we eat together at the table, it is more often in the kitchen than in the dining room.

So being all together at the dining room table is a big part of why I love Thanksgiving so much.

There is another reason, a simple one.

Thanksgiving encourages gratitude. And being grateful is good for us.

Let me try to explain. First, I don’t want to pretend that Thanksgiving always or automatically puts us in a state of gratitude. The formal public prayers we say on this day don’t do the job. We can go through Thanksgiving Day without really being thankful for anything other than the meal.

But the day invites us to do so. It reminds us to be thankful. We remember how grateful the pilgrims were for food and shelter. These things we usually take for granted. On Thanksgiving, we sometimes remember how much more blessed we are than the Pilgrims.

If we let it happen, Thanksgiving can do more… If we let it push us to say our private prayers of thanksgiving, avoiding the pompous and stylized prayers we say for other Gods… .If we use the day to do a long private list of things we should be thankful for …. if we keep adding to this list all the time.

If Thanksgiving prompts us to do such things, we might start to feel really good.

Why does being grateful make us feel so good? I think it just flushes out all the bad negative and petty thoughts that have built up in us. There is no room in a grateful mind for pettiness, jealous feelings, anger and disappointment. Gratitude drives away waste.

Gratitude equals happiness.

Of course, all of this good stuff doesn’t have to end when Thanksgiving passes. If times get tough on another day, our private prayers of gratitude can drive away the negative garbage that loads our minds. Prayers of thanks for spouses, children, parents, our former Scout leaders, coaches, teachers, directors, friends we can trust, good health (or if good health is not with we, as my mother taught us, be thankful for the good health we once had), warm autumn days, favorite animals, music, books, problems to solve, people to help, good food, hot baths and so on.

It feels good, doesn’t it?

DG Martin hosts “North Carolina Bookwatch,” 3:30 p.m. Sunday and 5 p.m. Tuesday on PBS North Carolina (formerly UNC-TV). The program will also air on the North Carolina Channel at 8 p.m. Tuesday.

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