It seems particularly indicative of the state of my life right now that I am writing about thankfulness on December 1st. A day late and a dollar short would be a great sort of motto for me if it wasn’t such a disheartening one. And now I’ve begun a post on thankfulness by complaining. Hmm.
Lucky for me, thankfulness is anything but seasonal and commitment to it can always be renewed. The Sunday before Thanksgiving I watched Veggie Tales’ Madame Blueberry with my preschool Sunday school class. While I am fairly confident that I enjoyed it more than most of the little people in the room (with the exception of a particular scene wherein a character scoots along a road in a shopping basket. Apparently scooting touches the three-year-old sense of humor deeply and forcefully), I am certain I felt its lessons more deeply.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the story (are there people who are unfamiliar with the story?), it is about a very sad blueberry who has not yet learned that buying things cannot make her happy. She is deeply discontented with the furnishings of her own home and keeps a table full of pictures of what other people have (Facebook, anyone?). She decides to solve her problems by going to the Stuff Mart and buying everything she’s ever wanted. In the meantime she is confronted with the examples of two little vegetable children who manage to be thankful to their parents even when they don’t get what they want. All comes to a head when (spoiler alert) her house gets so full of stuff it falls out of the tree it was perched on, and Madame Blueberry must learn to be thankful for what she still has, her friends.
It is easy in an age in which we know so much about the surface of each others’ lives (in other words, we know a lot about what people want us to know about them) to be deeply habituated in envy and ingratitude. Envy is an odd vice, really, in that it responds to even very good things by requiring more. For some strange reason it seems deeply embedded in the human heart to respond to affluence by looking for greater profit. All vices hurt the soul, and envy’s particular infliction is an inability to enjoy one’s own situation and the gifts of God that have been given to you in particular.
The opposing virtue is, of course, thankfulness. Like envy it is not dependent on what one has; the very rich can be envious and the very poor can be thankful or vice versa. Thankfulness is as beautiful as envy is ugly. It imbues even the most humble of lives with the understanding that God has blessed it.
It seems very right that a country so rich and blessed as ours has a day dedicated to thankfulness, and yet I have to wonder if it is somewhat undermined by the fact that the very next day has become the biggest shopping day of the year. Somehow, we have decided to be thankful, and then to acquire more. Here’s what I would like to suggest: let’s skip the spirit of Black Friday and go straight from a day of thanksgiving to the season of Advent, when we remember the humble beginnings and simple life of the man we are most thankful for, and pray that he will help us shake off the shackles of envy before he must shake our homes out of their trees.