How many of you would rather be sitting where you are today than in the best prison in all of America?
That question comes from a music minister who used it mightily to roust our aging congregation and inspire them to sing their hearts out. I think he felt like it gave them a bit of perspective. It’s the same kind of sermonic reasoning we read each year in columns that urge us to remember those less fortunate.
Can’t we just hold the guilt this time and sit back and relax with our holiday pie?
Columnists and most especially ministers, of whom I am both, try to make you see that your life is not as bad as it could be. This approach comes off sounding a lot like a parent trying to get their kid to eat turnips. “At least we have turnips and broccoli on our table,” goes the paternal reasoning, “I’ll bet the kids in Godawfulstan wish they had turnips.” That line of reasoning never did much for me.
The problem with that perspective is that thankfulness has never been about comparing your good fortune to the misfortunes of others. Thanksgiving will never be about trying to equalize the imbalance of those fortunes.
Thanksgiving isn’t just about being thankful you don’t have a loved one deployed to a war-torn country. It’s also about being thankful we have brave service members who are willing to serve when their country calls.
Thanksgiving isn’t just about being grateful you aren’t poor. It is also about being grateful you have resources to give to the poor.
It is not only about being grateful you aren’t hungry. It is also about sharing your gratitude with the hungry.
Thanksgiving is not about comparing what you have with what others do not have . It is not about being glad your home is not a shanty cardboard shack under the freeway. It’s about the help we give the homeless as we humbly realize that most of us are one paycheck away from building our own shack.
Thanksgiving is not about giving thanks for what you have, where you work, where you live or even who you are. Thanksgiving is not about you at all.
Thanksgiving is about keeping perspective between recognizing the blessings we’ve received and utilizing our capacity to return those blessings to others.
At the end of the calorie-laden day, perspective will be a constant reminder that we are not alone on this planet. It is the perspective that teaches us we’ve all journeyed from the same place and, as Scripture suggests, “to dust we will return.”
That is the perspective from which humility comes, and humility will always be about thankfulness.
Norris Burkes is a syndicated columnist, national speaker and author of “No Small Miracles.” He also serves as an Air National Guard chaplain and is board-certified in the Association of Professional Chaplains. You can call him at 321-549-2500, Email firstname.lastname@example.org, visit website thechaplain.net or write him at P.O. Box 247, Elk Grove, CA 95759.