I am grateful. It’s thanksgiving weekend, and I am blessed. These days, gratitude and thanksgiving are in season. After a harvest and a celebratory feast it’s easy to cozy up to a sacred sensation of appreciation. It’s good and important, and I could become very long-winded about how grateful I am.
The truth is, though, I am not purely grateful. A few other feelings are mixed into this heart of mine that makes this season a little more complicated.
Yesterday at my family’s Thanksgiving meal there were several conversations about the dangers of consumerism and the goodness of simplicity. My heart was filled with thanks for the fact that these are the values that have been instilled in me. Simplicity and thriftiness shall help us survive, I’ve learned. Consumerism creates more problems than solutions. Happiness has nothing to do with the stuff you have. Instead, joy comes from a relationship grounded in God.
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and decay destroy, and thieves break in and steal. But store up treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor decay destroys, nor thieves break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.” –Matthew 6:19-21
Jesus seemed to say so himself: It’s not the stuff of shopping that matters, but the stuff of heaven.
The danger and the challenge, however, is that it’s a heaven thing to have a pure heart. Pure hearts are nonjudgmental and free of pride and self-righteousness.
It’s easy to become self-satisfied when I hear murmurings with negative tones about shopping crusades and I agree. The truth is, I know many people whose joy on this day are the deals that they discovered on their shopping frenzies. For many, it seems that the hype, lines, crowds and stampedes of this day are fun and exciting like sports events. It’s hard to appreciate all this, instead I become grateful for Buy Nothing Day campaigns. I can become angry about how people choose insanity. When anger enters in, though, love seems to leave.
In my classroom there is a sign: “If you must have an attitude, have an attitude of gratitude.” In reality, gratitude is tough. The problems of the world glare at me, and it becomes hard to have a grateful heart. When I notice people doing things wrong, I can quickly become judgmental, crabby, and angry. When consumerism and materialism seem to be creating spiritual and social disasters, I have trouble appreciating any type of craze that supports it. When oppression corrodes at the dignity of those whom I love, my heart rarely has room left for gratitude.
A wise sister in my community has told me that when there is a temptation to be judgmental, gratitude is the quickest remedy. Once gratitude enters in, she says, all else has to go out.
Once gratitude enters in, I’ll have no choice but to know love. That love can’t be bought or sold. I’ll have to give it away, and with that it’s the gift that just keeps giving.