Right after Halloween (and sometimes even before) our retailers would have us begin focusing on Christmas, and now “Black Friday”, which used to be limited to one day, has expanded to an entire season dedicated to shopping for bargains.
I love Christmas. But I often think it’s a shame that in our rush to get to it we tend to overlook Thanksgiving, which deserves to be enjoyed and appreciated for its own sake, not just as a warm-up act for Santa Clause. Of course, not everyone is glossing over Thanksgiving. In fact, I’ve been encouraged to see more than one friend making daily entries on Facebook about things they are thankful for – a valuable exercise.
An interval of meditation, serious and grateful, was the best corrective of everything dangerous in such high-wrought felicity; and she went to her room, and grew steadfast and fearless in the thankfulness of her enjoyment. (Persuasion, chapter 23)
This year especially, it’s easy to find things not going right in the world – major stuff – and to dwell on them. A while back, I was getting so stressed out by it all that I had to basically stop watching the news altogether.
But when I stand back and take a more objective look, the truth is there are more positives than negatives. I have all the essentials, really (family/friends, food, shelter, reasonably good health, work I enjoy), and most of the rest doesn’t matter. Besides, studies show that thankfulness leads to contentment and happiness (not the other way around). Kind of opposite to what we’re used to thinking.
This topic reminded me of one of the segments I wrote for Prayer & Praise: a Jane Austen Devotional – segment 9, Gratitude and Contentment. No room to share it all today, but here’s an excerpt:
Who do you suppose most appreciated the comfort and luxury Mansfield Park provided – the Bertram children, who were born to it, or Fanny Price, who had known poverty and deprivation? While Julia and Maria bickered about who should sit where in their fashionable carriage and which one of them should have the best part in the play they were putting on for their own amusement, humble Fanny felt deep gratitude for the simple things and the smallest acts of kindness – a favor done for her brother, being spared an ordeal, the warmth of a good fire in her no-frills attic room:
While her heart was still bounding with joy and gratitude on William’s behalf, she could not be severely resentful of anything that injured only herself…
This was an act of kindness which Fanny felt at her heart. To be spared from her aunt Norris’s interminable reproaches! He left her in a glow of gratitude…
The first thing which caught her eye was a fire lighted and burning. A fire! It seemed too much; just at that time to be giving her such an indulgence was exciting even painful gratitude. She wondered that Sir Thomas could have leisure to think of such a trifle…
These three references in Mansfiled Park (chapters 31 and 32) are only a few of many expounding on Fanny’s gratitude and thankfulness…
I know mild little Fanny doesn’t make the most dashing, colorful heroine, but I admire her character and would value her as a friend.
Like Fanny Price, Jane Austen herself experienced hardships and deprivation, but she likewise counted the many comforts she did enjoy as blessings to be thankful for. How do I know? Here’s the passage from one of the prayers she wrote, the passage that inspired the above devotional segment:
Give us a thankful sense of the Blessings in which we live, of the many comforts of our Lot; that we may not deserve to lose them by Discontent or Indifference.
Good advice. As I remember seeing on a church reader board: GET RICH QUICK! COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS!
I’ll leave you with my best wishes for a blessed Thanksgiving, whatever that may look like this year, and a bit of COVID humor:
We’ve been told only six people are allowed to meet for a Thanksgiving celebration, but thirty are allowed for a funeral. Therefore, I’m announcing that we will be holding a funeral on Thanksgiving Day for our pet turkey, whose name was Butterball. Dinner to follow the brief service. (In lieu of flowers, please bring a side dish!)