It’s that time of the year again. Cartoon turkeys are adorning ads and cranberries are in the stores (and soon to be in my fridge). If you are like me, your Twitter and Facebook feeds are filling up with your family, friends, and variously distant acquaintances listing reasons they are thankful.
Thanksgiving. Or, as I often think of it, the secular holiday I approve of.
I approve of the chance to focus on giving thanks. I approve of being encouraged, as a country, as one of the richest countries in the world, to take a day (or, as my Twitter and Facebook friends are, more) and consider all that we have which is beloved and good. This is no easy task, as the things that we are, and should be, thankful for can easily get overlooked in the busy-ness of life.
Yet, as a priest and an individual, I always approach this season with more than a little hesitation. While there is a rightness to being asked to consider all that we have, as a country and as individuals, there is danger in how this conversation happens.
There are things in our lives, all of our lives, that we may not and should not be thankful for. Issues of money, health, family, work, and other things that are struggles, burdens, and torturous. It may seem like we are doing better at hearing this truth, right now in the midst of Occupy Wall Street and with the recent New York Times article on the ‘Near Poor.’ I’m not so sure.
We may be on the cusp of beginning a societal conversation about some of the economic issues that create persistent inequalities for our neighbors and ourselves. Or we may not. We don’t know yet.
But a societal conversation is not the same as learning to speak the truth of the broken, weak, and sometimes just destroyed parts of our own lives. There are truths about debt, about illness, about personal and family secrets that are hard to share, hard to expose to close family and beloved friends, much less the world.
This Thanksgiving, let us give thanks. Let us give deep and genuine thanks for all of the beloved and good aspects of our lives. Let us rejoice and celebrate wholeheartedly. May that only be the beginning of a conversation about the reality of our lives.