Thankful: conscious of a benefit received.
I don’t love their shoes, but I’d nominate Nike slogan creator Dan Wieden for the Nobel Peace Prize. Just do it–applied en masse could cure obesity, poverty, illiteracy, unemployment, and empty toilet paper rolls. The downside would be impulse marriages, divorces, suicides, and job walk-offs– impulse suicides notwithstanding, the other issues could be summarily fixed by reapplying the same slogan.
When it comes to cultivating thankfulness, the power of stepping to the plate cannot be overstated. Can a person just-do-it: become thankful?
99% of the time, I think we can. Job (unluckiest man in all of history) and folks like him in the midst of tragedy, inmates on death row, and Hillary Clinton are the 1% exempted from manning up to thankfulness. The rest of us have no legitimate excuse.
I say that because I believe thankfulness is a decision, not a state of existence. But it’s a decision I get to make over and over again in response to each new stimulus that comes my way. Some stimuli are easier on the consciousness than others, but a true cynic can twist any circumstance into cause for thanklessness.
Extreme example: Bob’s work gives turkeys to their employees. One could be thankful for the turkey or one could see the turkey as a frozen boulder of responsibility, the death of a sleep-in, endless leftovers, hours of viscid carcass-picking. One could focus on the PTSD she’ll surely acquire from the pressure of cooking said turkey perfectly and on time. Or how spiritually dark it is to reach into the “cavity” and pull out a bag of slick organs and then stuff it again with wet, stinky bread. What about the dishes? What about the blackened carbon fused to the roasting pan?
A person dead-set against gratitude could complain that if the company really cared, they’d give admittance tickets to someone else’s Thanksgiving dinner. Then said ingrate could complain the menu options were too sparse or the company too dull, etc.
One can almost always choose to see circumstances as benefits received or blows received. The choice is ours, and we get to make it over and over.
When I feel myself seeing only blows, I take the following steps:
- Pray. I ask God to forgive my feelings of entitlement, which stink like rotting gizzards.
- Read Psalm 23 and ask God to fill me with thankfulness.
- As a final insurance against ingratitude, I request an appointment with the Ghost of Christmas Future, that I might see the end of the matter and appreciate I am not there, yet. Translation: I imagine my grave and pray God helps me seize the day.
Ever reflect on how thankful a live turkey ought to be? Consider the reasonable complaints of a November turkey: The crowded farm conditions and toxic air, the ever-present poo between his webbed feet, the corn, corn, corn on the menu every day, and the disgusting realization: he inadvertently became a cannibal when the farmer mixed in a carcass with the cornmeal. Oh what a horrid life he has, getting fatter and fatter by the day… until the moment he enters the kill room. Too late, he’d embrace all those “rotten” circumstances if only he could have back that beating heart, that air, those feathers, his organs not in a bag.
If being thankful is consciousness of benefits received, then we can all be thankful to be alive, to have the opportunity of tomorrow and all its possibilities.
Life delivers an array of circumstances to which we can react. With every one are you conscious of a benefit received? I don’t think we have to be thankful for the blows or the sucker punches… but how about being thankful the blow wasn’t death, wasn’t a sucker gunshot wound to the aorta. If you peel it down, cup-half-full thinking is the motto of the day. Nothing profound or philosophical, just the Nike slogan do it. And by do it I mean choose to see the benefit, not the blow.
When, at the table of extravagant feasting, the turkey is dry, the hostess is crotchety, the cranberry sauce is canned, republicans are on one side and democrats are on the other, just do it. Be thankful you’re all together. Alive. Free.
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:6,7