sober thoughts and giving thanks

Happy Thanksgiving!
(For those non-U.S. folks, this is what I am referring to.)

So, this pilgrim does indeed give thanks, but…

The Pilgrim Fathers’ first landing 13 Nov 1620, by Mike Haywood

…I have to admit that giving thanks for being an American, or a U.S. Citizen, or someone who has “freedoms” that others “hate” isn’t what floats my Mayflower. I don’t buy into the manifest destiny mythologies like those depicted in the painting above. In fact, that image is outright comical in my opinion. And sometimes, more so now than before, I often feel like someone only visiting this planet. On the other hand, I do have so much for which to be thankful, not least of which is to be born into a country that doesn’t get in the way of a lot of freedoms that I cherish.

Truth is, I could have been born anywhere, in any time, part of any ethnic group, raised in any religion or any culture, into any family. But I was born who I was with what I was given. I am certainly fortunate to have been born into the country I was, very imperfect though it is. And I am grateful to live in a country whose economy provides opportunity. So, besides my wonderful family, freedom of religion, a country with some significant semblance of democracy, the U.S. Constitution, the fact I have a job with good health benefits, and a lot more of the same stuff for which we’re all thankful, what else is it that I am thankful for?

Lately I have been thankful for suffering. I know that sounds like the dumbest thing to say. But only through suffering do I seem to grow as a person. In fact, though I do not feel particularly connected to those early pilgrims who came to the North American shores so many years ago, I do feel a strong affinity to another pilgrim, that of Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress.

That famous pilgrim struggled to find his way, made wrong turns, got lost, was often confused, sometimes trusted in those who he shouldn’t, and was helped a great deal along the path. In the end he reached his goal. I hope to do the same, but I have to confess that my hope is tempered by a great amount of fear and trembling. And yet, as I struggle, as I suffer, I plumb the depths of my soul, I learn about myself, my weaknesses, my pride, my fears, my true hopes. Suffering crystallizes what I need to know and shows me in what or whom I have been placing my trust. In short, suffering is a bright light that helps to illuminate the path. Though I do not ask for suffering, and I certainly do not enjoy it, I have to say I would not trade any suffering I have had for the world. I am thankful and grateful for what it has wrought.

I also have to say that my suffering, though often painful to me, pales in comparison to the suffering experienced by so many others. I wish for a world of no suffering. And yet, I long even more for a world in which people honestly, naturally, from the depths of their souls, love each other truly.

These thoughts may seem to be an odd way of celebrating Thanksgiving Day, but it reflects the season I am in. And honestly, I find myself wanting to get away from the shallow expectations of mere food and football. Those are good things, but when I consider what I am thankful for I find myself considering foundational things, not the gloss. I wish the same for you.

May you have a wonderful Thanksgiving Day. More importantly, may you grow in wisdom and love.

And just in case you’re wondering, we will be doing the traditional Thanksgiving Day feast with some very good friends. So don’t get the idea that this post represents some kind of holiday gloom. There is too much to be thankful for.

Finally, I found this meaningful Thanksgiving video:

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