Perhaps we all know what Thanksgiving is. We know what it feels like. Underneath all our turkey and stuffing, we know that Thanksgiving feels like gratitude, appreciation and love. It smells like pumpkin pie mixed with joy. It tastes like mashed potatoes whipped with the heart’s fairest harvest. It is the giving of the feast of compassion, the giving of our deepest gifts.
But what is the opposite of Thanksgiving?
Could it be the way we steer through our days on auto-pilot, concerned only about getting things done? Concerned primarily about connecting the dots between A and B? Could the opposite of Thanksgiving be our busy lives, our focused doing, our physical robotic movements?
Could the opposite of Thanksgiving be our forgetting to be grateful? Our forgetting to marvel at the small gifts which life presents, moment after moment, hour after hour, day after day? Could it be a sin of our attention? As we focus on (you fill in the blank of your hectic schedule) do we simply give our attention to other things, forgetting to let the heart drink of appreciation and gratitude?
Is the opposite of Thanksgiving our tendency to focus on what’s wrong, what’s not working in the fabric of our days? Are we focused on what’s ripped, what’s broken, what seems beyond repair? Are our eyes and thoughts frantically attempting to fix, to sew, to knit new ways of existing? Are we lost in our imperfection, our humanity, our feelings of wrongness? Could this be the opposite?
Are we ever simply ungrateful for what Life brings us? Do we expect Life to bring us wine and roses, and mutter under our breath when it delivers compost and mud? Do we think we deserve a basic standard of living or a millionaire’s dream? Are we comparing ourselves with our neighbors and feeling envious? Is this the opposite of Thanksgiving?
Do we think Thanksgiving is too much effort, or too silly, or impotent? Do we think that it doesn’t really matter? Do we not care? Do we think gratitude is not a dove flying free above the trees, an orange sunset, the hug of a small child?
Do we sometimes give from obligation, from tradition, from a heart partially squeezed shut in a frustration of too-much-materialism? How much do we hold back from our family, friends, the world? Is the opposite of Thanksgiving stinginess, clutching our gifts toward our own chests, attempting to fill an inner sense of lack, an inner suffering?
As we sit before our turkey or ham or green bean casserole, as we kneel our heads in prayer, as we smile at family members, shall we remember also the opposite of Thanksgiving?
And tomorrow–when we whip out our VISA cards and buy Christmas presents–can we remember again what Thanksgiving feels like and bring it into our daily busy lives, our tendency to forget, our focus on what’s missing?
Thanks. Giving. Two simple words.
Bringing them more fully into our daily lives may mean looking more deeply at why we choose other options between sunrise and sunset, why we grasp or push away Thanksgiving in our daily lives.
It’s not about feeling shame or guilt–wishing we could live Thanksgiving 24/7. Instead it’s about finding space for these precious qualities in the ordinary moments of our day, in the rushing out the door, in the simple act of baking pie. It’s a gentle reminder to ourselves: Thanksgiving is now, when we choose to remember it.
Happy Thanksgiving, friends and family–from our Little House in the Big Woods