Thanksgiving is a great reminder. And we need them. Because whatever we have and see every day becomes less important to us. We have it. There’s nothing to do here. Time to move along.
Finding meaning and using our time means we want to achieve something with the day. We want to have purpose. To matter – to others but, more importantly, to ourselves. We don’t want to get complacent and be less that we think we should be, than we dream of being.
“Be less than you can be!” will never be a lyric in a commercial.
Learning To See It
A quick story: a well-travelled friend once called me rich. I laughed, of course, because I was a broke high school student at the time and my family were never considered wealthy. But then she asked a question.
“Do you have a car?” she asked.
Rather than quibble about the fact that the car I took to school was my parent’s and I was a mooch, I chose the explanation that make me feel better and answered,”Yes.”
“Then, you’re rich,” she said with an I-told-you-so look in her eye. I wisely waited for her to explain.
“Where I grew up no one had cars,” she continued. “We all rode buses or walked and the busses were full to the point of people hanging onto the sides and riding on top.” I knew this to be true.
“Anyone with their own car, no matter how old or wrecked, was very rich.” She ended with this.
“You Have No Idea What You Have!”
The Right Hemisphere
From that moment on I saw my car. Really saw it. I didn’t complain because it wasn’t fast or new or red or impressive. I didn’t slink down and try to wish away the four-door-family-land-yacht shame.
I saw it, for the first time, as a gift, a blessing I hadn’t earned. It was as if I’d been taking a miracle for granted and had suddenly been hit in the eye with the truth – I hadn’t done anything at all to deserve it.
I had done nothing in my short life to earn the right to be born in the hemisphere I occupied.
It was impossible to deserve the great, hard-working, car-owning parents I had. I didn’t even understand what bad parents were until I hit college and a friend’s dad stole his self-earned college fund. I never saw that friend again.
Best selling author Dean Koontz’s father was an alcoholic sociopath that tried to kill him. Why didn’t I have that Dad? No answer.
The freedoms I enjoyed were reserved only for royalty in other times and places. Some of my ancestors were slaves and political prisoners. Arbitrary rule and cruel power are the historical norms.
There are many places where if you can manage to own a car your travel is severely restricted by borders and roadblocks. Why can I drive the length of a continent without fear or passport? No answer.
There has never been a time in my life when I wasn’t loved. My wife took over this dubious duty after long service by my parents. My children love me without any logically supportable cause.
I spent Thanksgiving being chased by a crawling ninja of joy who called me Gan Da Da over and over again. Trust me, there is nothing I’ve ever done in my life to merit the overwhelming love I felt when Coraline fell asleep in Granddaddy’s arms after dinner.
You Don’t Deserve It
I’m sorry to be so blunt but if you think you’ve earned your blessings then you’re wrong. So very wrong.
Don’t beat yourself up. You’ve probably just drifted into a dissatisfied habit of seeking the best you can be and always looking for something better. That’s not so bad. However . . .
But do not spent another day on this planet walking around blessing blind – sightless to your obvious unearned graces.
It’s rude, arrogant and the person it hurts the most is you, yourself. It’s like the teenager in my kid’s school who had a $90,000 sports car and was upset because his father, who bought them both, tooled around in the same car customized to the tune of $120,000.
How can you have a car whose value approaches the median home price in the state where I was born and still be unhappy? Apparently it’s easy. Just keep your eyes laser focused on the car you don’t have.
It’s All About The Attitude
Dean Koontz is a remarkably happy man but it doesn’t have anything to do with the $20,000,000 or so he earned last year. He could always focus on the fact that he was only the 11th highest paid author of last year and remain miserable.
But no. He was happy before last year. He even says he had a happy childhood. With psycho dad.
Instead, he says it’s because he made a decision. His personal mantra is:
Happiness is a choice.
If Dean Koontz was happy as a child, it would be downright ungrateful for me to be miserable. If I have a car, even if it does currently need brakes, then I should see it for the blessing that it is. If I am loved, then I should be deliriously giddy, because who would sign up for that?
If we (currently) live in a country that takes a national holiday off to consider our blessings, then we should consider the outrageous blessing of time to “see” our good fortune and appreciate it. Even McDonald’s is closed!
If, however, you are one of the employees relegated to long hours of abuse and craziness during Black Friday, which now starts at sundown on our national day of gratefulness, then my prayers and blessings are with you.
I beseech you on behalf of all such underpaid, under appreciated souls to be patient – or better yet, stay home. Or maybe you could take up my mantra . . .
Be nice to Wal-Mart employees.
You could be working there waiting on the likes of you. Trust me, that’s a blessing. Count it.
Photo: Cranberry Candles by Chris Potako via Flickr