I recently spent some time listening to a good friend of mine as he recounted the Thanksgiving and holiday seasons. His words rang way too true. I'm paraphrasing, so there are no quotes!
Tomorrow, Thanksgiving day, something truly amazing is going to happen. There are about 300 million Americans. Tomorrow, nearly everyone of us, regardless of race, creed or color won't be going to work. At about 2:00 pm, nearly everyone will spend time giving thanks for the blessings they have. Most people will eat a good meal. Most people will be with friends and family. For about an hour tomorrow, the entire country will pause to give thanks.
Then, we'll sit on the couch and turn on the television. We will complain about how long it takes to clean up after such a large meal. As we watch the traditional Thanksgiving day football game, some, like my friend, will complain about how bad the Cowboys are. Somewhere around 8 pm, those of us who traveled to a relative's house will embark on the journey home. We will complain because we had to travel so far to spend time with our in-laws that we don't much like anyway and now have to drive home in the dark when we are already tired.
Friday morning comes quickly because, of course, it is Black Friday and we must be up and out early to take advantage of all the great deals. Once we get there we will complain because of all the lunatics that got up early enough to be in front of us on the line. We get into the store and realize that there was only one $25 laptop and only one $50 flat screen television and we complain. As we continue to search the store, we complain about the fact that you can't buy a decent present for under $100. Throughout the month of December we complain about the commercialization, the traffic and the stress of the holidays.
The New Year arrives. We are reminded that we are still too fat, still didn't paint the living room and still haven't read any books. We complain that we can't follow through on resolutions, probably because we are too busy.
Then, comes maybe the worst day of the entire year, January 22. An ominous day, indeed. That is when the MasterCard bill arrives. As we stare in disbelief at the amount of money we spent, we complain because we can't pay the bill because we don't make enough money at our lousy jobs. Oh, yeah, and because of that job that doesn't pay enough, we don't have a big enough house, or a nice enough car, or a long enough vacation - complain, complain, complain. Don't even get us started on putting our kids through college or paying for retirement!
But, alas, there is some hope! There is only 298 days until Thanksgiving when we will all pause to be thankful for what we have.
This was my friend's story, but I think we can all relate to it. We live in arguably the most consumeristic society in the history of humanity. We have more stuff than any people who have every walked the earth. The problem is, though, that we are more aware of what we don't have than we we do. If we have a cell phone, we want a smart phone. If we have a 40" flat screen TV, we want a 50". If we drive a Ford, we want a Lexus. You get the idea. We spend 364 days a year complaining about what we don't have and forget to focus on what we do have.
I have been privileged to have had the opportunity to travel to Guatemala City for the past three years to work with people who live and work in and on a garbage dump. These people have nothing. When you ask them what they want, they say food, water, a roof over their heads. Those who do well scavenging through the garbage dump earn about $2 per day. Those who have food often eat once a day and sometimes eat what they find in the trash. Those who have water at all get it only for a couple of hours a day and cannot drink it safely. Those who have shelter live in "houses" that aren't as nice as many of our tool sheds. Ask me what I want. I want an iPad, I want a new kitchen, I want a shed to put my lawnmower and snow blower in. I have so much stuff that I can't even fit it into my house and I still want more. But, what do I do, complain about what I don't have.
This week on the school sign I have been posting facts dealing with the struggles of people around the world, which includes people of the United States.
1.4 billion people do not have clean drinking water.
6 million children under the age of five die each year because of malnutrition.
3 billion people live on $2 a day or less.
80% of the world, nearly 5 1/2 billion people, live on $10 a day or less.
2.6 billion people do not have sanitary waste facilities - flushing toilets
1 billion people do not have enough to eat
45 million Americans live below the poverty line ($16,000 a year for a family of four )
1 out of every 5 children in America lives in poverty
40 million Americans live in households that did not have an adequate supply of food
And I complain because my Internet service isn't fast enough, or that I have to wait in line at the grocery store.
When things are bad, we complain. When things are good, we complain because they're never good enough. As we all prepare for a nice four day weekend - of course, it would be better if it were longer - I would urge everyone to give thanks for everything. Times are certainly tough. Economically and personally, we are all battling to deal with great challenges. We've had to deal with the loss of "things". We've had to deal with the loss of jobs. We've had to deal with the loss of loved ones. In all things, though, there is an opportunity to be thankful.
When the turkey is finished, the pumpkin pie has been eaten, the dishes have been cleaned and the button on your pants has been undone, take some time to continue to be thankful. If you have a job, be thankful - there are many people without one right now. If you are sitting in your warm house watching television, be thankful - there are many people living on the streets. If you eat a good meal, be thankful - many people go hungry every day. If you get a glass of water from the tap, be thankful - a good portion of people in the world could only dream of doing that. If you lose someone close to you, be thankful - thankful that you got to spend time with them at all.
If we as adults can do all of this, we can teach our children more than they can every learn in a book or a classroom. Our kids live in a world where all they seem to notice is what everyone else has and does. They focus so much on what they don't have that they fail to appreciate what they do have. By being good role models each and every day, we can teach them to be optimistic, hopeful, thankful for everything they have, and thankful that they live in a country and community that is filled with opportunities.
Happy Thanksgiving - tomorrow and for the next 364 days!