They are times of excitement and joy. They are times filled with busy-ness. They are times that bring stress and anxiety. On some holidays, there is even a little bit of a type of historical-multiple-personality-disorder going on.
Thanksgiving is no exception:
Lots of food. But someone has to cook it.
Lots of family and friend get-togethers. But a lot of miles have to be travled.
Lots of pageants chronicling the tale of the Pilgrims and the Native Americans. But the knowledge of imperialism and colonialism that almost wiped out a race of people.
Thanksgiving is at the same time a day to be thankful for all that we have while gluttonously devouring way too much food. And that is followed by Black Friday.
Although Thanksgiving is indeed a call to be grateful, that thanks-giving often ends way too soon.
For some, Thanksgiving ends when the last bite of the meal is taken. At that point, it is time to move away from the table and go sit in front of the television while slipping into a food-induced coma.
For some, Thanksgiving ends when Black Friday shopping begins. It is no longer time to be content when there are door busters to be had.
For some, Thanksgiving ends when the Christmas decorations come out. We have so segmented each holiday that we fail to see any overlap. So we put one away to make room for Nativity scenes and the Santas.
For some, Thanksgiving never really begins. For some people, holidays are just a reminder of what all they do not have. For some people, Thanksgiving is another day to watch other people be happy. For some people, the despair felt every day becomes even more heightened on Thanksgiving Day.
The holiday season is a scary season for recovering addicts. There are several reasons for this. First, a lot of drinking takes place during the holidays. For those who are addicted, holiday memories include intoxication. Some habits are hard to break.
Second, holidays create a lot of stress. Drugs and alcohol, in addition to being unhealthy and destructive, are really good stress relievers. Other anxiety reducing activities need to be identified and practiced.
Third, when holidays create joy for some people, they intensify despair for others. Holidays are a reminder of relationships lost—both family and friends. Holidays are sometimes overwhelming evidence of “what could have been.”
When people are depressed, the solution is not watching others be happy. So when holidays come around, it often creates more feelings of dis-ease and lack of stability and longing and misery.
So for a lot of people, their Thanksgiving ends before it ever really begins.
How do we become a people for whom Thanksgiving never ends?
Obviously, the day on the calendar is going to come and go. The season of the Thanksgiving holiday is here and then gone. And to be certain, there are many signs of thankfulness shown throughout the month leading up to the fourth Thursday of November. There are lists posted on walls in houses all across the country. Social media fills up with gratitude challenges as people post something new every day. Many families will share stories of thankfulness around the table as they share the meal. A lot of good-hearted people spend time cooking, serving, and sharing life and resources with people who are in need.
But too often, those activities of gratitude cycle out with the turn of the calendar. And for others, the ability to express gratitude just seems like too much to bear.
But we can change that. So today, I post a new Thanksgiving challenge. And you don’t have to write it on a paper and stick it to your wall. You don’t have to post it to social media with a hashtag. But if we all do this, it can help us either continue our thanksgiving or renew the gratitude that is missing in our lives.
First, every day when you wake up, think of one thing you are grateful for. It can be simple: the bed you are in, socks, toothpaste, alarm clocks, toast, coffee, anything. But each day think of one new thing (in other words, don’t just think “coffee” every morning. #confession).
Second, every day when you go to bed, think of one thing that happened that day that you are thankful for. A kind word. A meal. A job well done. Survival.
That’s it. That’s all. That’s how we keep thanksgiving going.
So whether you are the type of person who shoves off from Thanksgiving once the meal is done or you are the type of person who can never get into the holiday because life just sucks, try these two things. Be thankful for one thing in the morning and one thing in the evening.
Because when thanksgiving ends, life becomes tough. Let’s keep giving thanks.