As we approach the season of Thanksgiving I’m left to wonder, what useful purpose does it serve to give thanks? How does giving thanks advance our cause or serve in self-actualization? As we collectively morph into a society where individuals exist only for self aggrandizement, where the only things worth doing seem to mean the only things worth doing to please myself, where does thanksgiving fit? If anything, an attitude of humble appreciation stands in sharp contrast to the mentality of entitlement. After all, why should I be grateful for things I naturally deserve? If everything is viewed as a matter of rights, even human rights, how could we possibly allow ourselves to denigrate what belongs to us as a matter of course? We do not seek privileges, but rights. Gratitude is not required.
Perhaps thanksgiving stands as a corrective to a flawed world view. The world doesn’t owe us anything. Healthcare, education, freedom from discrimination, the ability to grow and advance are not truly rights. Most of the world lives without the assurances of comfort and support. The rights of all humans, while nobly articulated in documents and declarations, bear little weight in the real world where self interests collide and power struggles that have existed since the time of Cain and Abel continue to fracture homes and families.
Thanksgiving reminds us that in this world there are few guarantees. The few things are guaranteed tend not to be pleasant. Thanksgiving reminds us that there is a God who provides for us out of the richness of his grace. He sustains the fragile little ball we call our temporary home and we are blessed with an invitation to stay. Thanksgiving reminds us that our focus needs to be on something beyond us, wholly other and transcendent. Thanksgiving reminds us that what we have received is well beyond what we deserve.
In a world bombarded with illusory rights, thanksgiving reminds us of grace and mercy and blessing. It draws us into a relationship with the Divine, the Holy God. It reminds us of the sacrifice of God to reconcile us with Him. We are called to that same sense of sacrifice in our relationships with others. Thanksgiving reminds us that like is not about what you gain, but what you give, both to God and to others. Only those who are thankful understand the eternal perspective to love.