We live in such a diverse society in the USA (and most other Western countries) that we sometimes have difficulties coming to terms with the holiday season. In my family alone are Evangelical Christians, Catholics, Atheists, Methodists, people who don’t know what they are (and don’t care) — and at least one Buddhist Agnostic. I can extend that, by listing friends and acquaintances, to Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Secular Humanists, a Quaker, Presbyterians, Unitarians, Episcopalians, and a bunch of recovering alcoholics who are too scared of what God might be thinking and won’t admit to any beliefs at all.
Thank goodness for Thanksgiving. We can argue about Xmas v. Christmas v. Kwanzaa v. Hanukkah v. the Eids v. Yule and the variety of other excuses that we use to celebrate the end of Winter, but everyone has to agree on Thanksgiving.
I mean, what’s not to like? A holiday where you don’t have to do anything to fit in but admit that you’re “thankful.” Most times you don’t even have to back that up with anything substantive. If you really, really think that you have nothing to be thankful about, you can always fake it (should you be asked at one of those round-robin dinner table rituals) by saying you’re thankful for the great food and all those good friends and relations.
In the 12-Step rooms, of which I have some experience, we are prone to the Thanksgiving ritual known as the Gratitude Meeting. Generally this involves folks taking turns listing all the things for which they are…well…grateful. This follows the tradition established by the Gratitude List, suggested to newcomers by sponsors when the whining becomes too loud or long.
It is amazing how effective the lists and meetings can be. Nothing quite straightens out your head, when you’re feeling sorry for yourself, like writing down or saying out loud a list of the things that you can’t help being grateful for.
If you are reading this, start with the fact that you are literate and able to operate a computer. If someone is reading it to you, you can be thankful that you have someone who cares enough to do that for you. If you will sit down with pen and paper (don’t do it on the computer — it lacks the power of doing it by hand for some reason) and just write the first thing that comes into your mind — even something like “I don’t want to kill myself right now” — it’s amazing how the list will expand.
Give it a try. Then when you end up in the gratitude discussion at Thanksgiving dinner with Mom, or around the tables at the church, or at a meeting, or just reflecting on you own, you will have something real to say. As a bonus, I guarantee you’ll come out of it with a lighter heart and greater appreciation for the wisdom of the folks who came up with the Thanksgiving gig.