Gratefulness is a social grace that often evades us in the modern age. It is not a mere platitude of thankfulness, nor a simple nod to the universe, or to God or whoever or whatever created us. Feeling and showing gratitude is so much more than simply giving thanks. Showing gratefulness and being gracious are similar in nature, yet not synonymous, and it is important to make a distinction especially when we consider our blessings.
It is easy to say grace, and to offer up prayers of thanks to some God in the sky who may or may not even exist. But to show gratitude and offer thanksgiving for a life that has been given to sustain one’s own, or for a sacrifice that was made for the sake of love, that is truly offering honor and praise. Much of what we seem to offer in the name of thanks these days seems to be mostly sentimentality, or may just be an obligatory recognition that thankfulness is required.
We often say that we’re glad to have friends, family, shelter, warmth, food, and the clothes on our backs. But how many of those of us who say such things, especially on a day like Thanksgiving (where it is practically an obligation), have any idea of what it is like to live otherwise? A large portion of our society is fortunate enough to have all the necessities of life, and then some. Even the poorest in our country live lives of luxury compared to the millions of people around the globe barely surviving in the Third World.
This is not to say that poverty isn’t a real problem in America, or that we’re never truly grateful for the amenities we receive just living here. However, in order for us to develop a true appreciation for what we do have, it helps to consider how others live with much less, and still find meaning, purpose, and happiness in life. These are all things that seem to be severely lacking in our country today. We have so much, yet we’re always wanting more.
Even though most of us have everything we need, and many even have an overabundance of unnecessary comforts, material possessions, and other frivolous things, we’re also collectively quite depressed, stressed, and lonely as a society. Despite our near majority level of comfort, we’re still largely unsatisfied with our lives, and it shows.
The level of dissatisfaction and ungratefulness in American society is clearly displayed in the ever expanding unholy day that many refer to as Black Friday. This infamous day is traditionally known as such due to the official starting of the holiday season, where companies finally move their balance sheets toward operating in the “black,” as opposed to the “red.” It’s worthy of celebration for them, because they’ve found a way to build up a shopping frenzy and get people to stand in line waiting to buy their stuff, so their unsustainable operations can finally stop operating at a loss for the year.
Apparently it wasn’t good enough to have the entire day after Thanksgiving for peddling “discounted” yet overpriced, cheaply made goods to the masses. Now, the corporate Scrooges who constantly seek to exponentially grow their bottom lines have been pushing their “doorbuster deals” and “early bird sales” further and further into Thanksgiving Day. So, not only do the underpaid staff at their stores not get an entire day to reflect on giving thanks, they have to spend the entire next day dealing with more of the same.
If ever there were a day to take the opportunity to give thanks to employees who work so hard to mostly line the pockets of company executives, surely Thanksgiving would be the day. But in true American capitalist style, the sales must go on, and they will take full advantage of the desperation and dissatisfaction that so many experience when they feel that they simply don’t have the right stuff. Advertising plays on our perceived need to always have the newest and shiniest toys, and in our throwaway culture, there is always something that needs to be updated or upgraded to the next new thing.
So, what can we do? We can try meditating on gratitude, first of all. It’s one thing to be thankful for your blessings, to give thanks for your material possessions, and even for the other people you have in your life. But to be truly grateful, we must consider what it means to live even without necessities. Then we can approach all the extras and the benefits of simply living in our comfort-laden society and we’ll realize that gratitude is what will keep us happy and satisfied. So, instead of shopping on Black Friday, or going out on Thanksgiving to hit the early, early sales, stay home and make it a Buy Nothing Day!