Thanksgiving For All!

November 26, 2011 at 9:30 am 1 comment

I had a happy Thanksgiving with my mom and dad, Annette and the six children.

We woke up later than usual. We ate a huge traditional Thanksgiving meal and followed it in the usual manner – pleasantly dozing the afternoon away. Those that could handle more had leftovers for dinner.

I wonder how those who had to work Thursday felt about Thanksgiving. And I’m not talking about essential workers – nurses, police officers, ER personnel, firefighters, etc. I’m talking about those people who work so that goods may be sold, so that consumers may consume, so that those with money may spend it. I might even be talking about those who worked so we could watch televised parades and football.  

Certain department stores were open 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Thursday. The very day proclaimed by the President of the United States as a National Day of  Thanksgiving. These are some of the things he said:

“As we come together with friends, family, and neighbors to celebrate, let us set aside our daily concerns and give thanks for the providence bestowed upon us.”

Daily concerns, perhaps, such as work schedule? Such as profit? Such as bargains? Such as the health of the consumer economy?

” I encourage the people of the United States to come together, whether in our homes, places of worship, community centers, or any place of fellowship for friends and neighbors to give thanks for all we have received in the past year, to express appreciation to those whose lives enrich our own, and to share our bounty with others.”

Many of us followed the President’s encouragement, or our own family and religious traditions. We worshiped God, we gathered with family. Some served free Thanksgiving meals at churches and community centers. 

But for many of us, Thanksgiving Day, and Thanksgiving Night, were simply another work day, and an especially intense one at that. And for some, taught by many years of habit, Thanksgiving was a day not to return thanks for what has been given, but to get the most for the least.  

Despite the proclamations, despite the wishes of ‘Happy Thanksgiving,’ there is something missing. We don’t understand that there is something bigger than buying and selling. Our lack of understanding is shown in our simply trusting to tradition that Thanksgiving is a time for family, community, and giving thanks.

The fact that a holiday is not granted to millions of non-essential personnel, people who don’t really need to be working on Thanksgiving so that the nation does not fall apart, means that it’s not really a ‘national holiday’ at all. If certain citizens of the nation, who otherwise wouldn’t have to work, must work – so that profit can be made, so that people can have the freedom to buy and sell – we have to ask: what’s this day all about anyhow? Is there a sense of ‘the nation’ pausing to give thanks? Or do individuals go about their business as they choose: some by upbringing and temperament and financial well-being given the opportunity to relax and give thanks for blessings given, and some for the same reasons shopping and working twice as hard as they normally would?

If we really want a national day of Thanksgiving – to whatever gods we as individuals and families worship – we as a nation ought to say: Close the stores and maybe even the restaurants. At least from midnight Thursday to midnight Friday. We used to do that and have no problem with it. We should do it again for the sake of those who buy and those who sell – so that they too might have a respite from the constant drive to acquire and be able to give thanks with their families and communities.

It’s a pipe dream. It would be screamed that this is a matter of freedom of choice, entrepeneurship, and freedom of religion, etc. If you choose to give thanks by shopping, what of it? And what about those who need to work to make a buck? Shouldn’t they get to give thanks in their own way, for a job that earns them money?

But the true reason we will never do this is hidden. Our consumer economy and the right to buy and sell has become dogma as inviolable as any religious dogma. Frankly, it’s getting harder for anyone to imagine a world in which we don’t have the right, at any time, to get what we want. Many of us can’t imagine that there is more to life than getting and having.  Anyone and anything who would prevent us from getting a bargain is taking from us something that we have come to view as sacred, as sacred as any God ever proclaimed.

That’s why those whom we simultaneously need and denigrate, those who sell us the stuff we want, will be forced to work on Thanksgiving Day; unless and until the wheel turns,and a deeper truth is revealed to us. May that day come soon. Thanksgiving for all!


Entry filed under: feasts and festivals. Tags: , , , , , , , .

Results of congregational voting 11/20/2011 Farewell Sermon at Messiah 12.30.11

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Julie Matthews Petersen  |  November 26, 2011 at 12:27 pm

    Wow, so well said, I found this from your wife’s posting this on Facebook, and, I couldn’t agree more! You said it very well.


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