Those pilgrims sure were smart, or at least whoever invented Thanksgiving was. I assume it was pilgrims, because I can't see another group purposely adopting the pilgrim attire as a symbol of their celebration, but who knows. Perhaps back in that day, pilgrim attire was all the rage.
Anyway, back to the genius who invented Thanksgiving.
When we get to harvest season, there are usually 3 possible outcomes: we had a good harvest, we had a bad harvest, or we had somewhere in between. If we had a good harvest, then it makes sense to have a party. But if the harvest was less than good, if it was simply mediocre, or worse, if it was down-right bad, then celebrating or giving thanks can seem like a kick in the jewels: at best, an unwanted reminder that there is less to be thankful for this year; at worst, a dismal waste of precious resources.
But yet, they celebrated Thanksgiving, these people who worked the land, whose winter survival frequently depended upon chance and hard manual labour, who did not have an iPhone, a car, or frequently a boss to worry about.
Pilgrims, and our ancestors, either got to work or starved. Those were (basically) the options.
Now, though, our worries and concerns are far less simplistic. For instance, I have a large special assessment (think 'unexpected new payment') on my property. Based on estimates, I've been given a monthly payment schedule. My car isn't in suitable shape to be driving this winter without some fairly hefty and expensive work. I take public transit for work, but do require a vehicle for other commitments I've made. And I would really like to do the fiscally responsible things someone in my stage of life should be doing: getting rid of remaining debt from school, making sure I've got an emergency fund, and sacking away as much as possible for retirement.
When I look at where I'd like to be, then back to where I am, I get that queazy feeling. I'm sure you know it too; it's that feeling of total despair and desolation. Despair because I don't see a way to suitably address all of the demands, and desolation because 'everyone else' is driving a new vehicle, and 'everyone else' has money for vacations, and 'everyone else' is becoming debt-free.
And I don't know how they do it! I don't know how 'everyone else' has the money to do all of these things that I can't do. Of course, when I really take a closer look, I know that 'everyone else' makes concessions too. They all have their fair share of tough decisions to make. It only seems like I have the short end of the stick because I can see my full stick. I'm not privy to the full financial picture of most of my friends.
It could well be that many of them aren't nearly as well-off as they like to portray - or as they like to believe that they are. I wonder if my friends my age have started making any contributions towards their retirement, whereas I started with a modest contribution at age 25. I also acknowledge the role generosity plays in my life.
When I was younger and poorer, I had friends who would look out for me, buy me things, dinners, whatnot. I was privileged then to be blessed, and I consider it a privilege now to be able to share with others, to donate occasionally and to tithe.
But this past week, I wasn't able to see any of this situation as a blessing. I was stuck - big time stuck - in a giant pit of self-pity. I would still be there too, if I hadn't come across a video created by the fine folks at soulpancake.com, who hosted an experiment on happiness.
In it, they studied the base-line happiness of individuals. They then, asked the subjects to write a paragraph on the person they were most grateful for. Then, they were asked to call that person on the spot and express their gratitude. Finally, a second happiness test was covertly administered.
The results were startling, and really helped me out of my pit. It showed those who were most downcast at the beginning gained the most boost in their mood by expressing gratitude. It also showed that everyone had some level of gain.
And it reminded me that despite my seemingly tough situation, there are always things to be thankful for. Like the fact that I don't have to wear pilgrim clothing. I'm pretty happy about that. I'm also pretty happy that those smarty-pants pilgrims started a great holiday to remind us that there are always things to be thankful for.
Happy Thanksgiving and may you find more and more things to be thankful for.
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