I’ve never enjoyed Thanksgiving – in the way people look forward to turkey and stuffing all month, name it as their favorite meal, crave pumpkin pie. I’m glad I grew up in the United States. I love my family. I enjoy being grateful. But somewhere between my hatred for vegetables (yes, even mashed potatoes) and the holiday posts infiltrating my feeds, I haven’t found real meaning in the holiday.
Thanksgiving exudes cliche. I admit to mimicking the popular choice, “I’m thankful for my friends and family,” when we go around the table. It’s easy to go through the motions, especially when most of the motions involve ingesting seconds and thirds of American comfort food and falling asleep in front of the TV.
My problem is that I haven’t looked deeper, bothered to understand how the traditions affect my everyday choices. So here’s my attempt to trace Thanksgiving cliches back to the meaning the should always hold:
1. The “I’m thankful for _____” cliche. I am thankful for my friends and family. But is that all there is to it? Are these people simply there to benefit me and make me feel loved? We all know that’s wrong, but we often make it sound right. Someone recently asked me, “Was it just me, or were everyone’s ‘I’m thankful for’s a little shallow last year?” I jumped to the defense, but he had a point. This year, I want to reflect on the following blanks before saying what I’m thankful for:
- “I’m humbled by ______.”
- “I admire _____ because ______.”
- “I often fail at _____, and I’m only able to continue because of ______.”
It takes vulnerability to complete these statements, and that’s what I want. I want my gratefulness to be so true that it hurts.
2. The “I have to visit my crazy family this holiday” cliche. Yeah, they’re crazy. They bring out the worst in us and they don’t bother to be polite and they hurt us. But I’m much more of a criminal then they are. More importantly, my family formed me and knows me better than anyone. And they still love me unconditionally. We crave ingenuity in this world blanketed with artificiality. Family is as real as it gets, baby. Perfection is not an option in a fallen world, but forgiveness and relationship will always be there.
3. The generosity cliche. I fall into giving because it feels good, because my blessings mean that I have a responsibility to give. I see the holidays infiltrated with this mentality. But this type of generosity is no better than hording everything for myself. I want to give because my sole purpose in life is to glorify my creator. Because every person reflects his image. Because I am a servant. Because loving everyone I know is not a means to feeling good but the end to loving God.
There are probably a few cliches in these paragraphs (*cringe*). And I know I’m participating in one simply by writing a holiday-themed post, promoting thankfulness via social media. I’m okay with that because it’s real thankfulness. And to get there, I’m experiencing real forgiveness, real love, and real relationship. Let Thanksgiving drive us not only to gratefulness but also unstoppably toward contagious, real joy.
You are beautiful. Thank you.