This is my Thanksgiving blog 

There are a few things I hate about cheesy holiday movies: They follow the same script, someone is always advising someone else that he/she deserves to be happy, and one of the sages on the stage is going to utter “follow your heart.”

[Insert screech-crash-dead silence here.]

Reality check number one: People don’t always follow the script. If you move stage right, make your sweetheart a sandwich, and compliment the way he holds the remote control, do not expect him to repay that gesture with an Alaskan cruise,* a new ring, or a channel turn to something you’d rather watch. (And for those of you who think I’m being sexist, just flip the script. She’s likely to tell you in no uncertain terms that it was a nice try but there’s another TV in the bedroom.) By the same token, if you act like a total butt, choose to see everything through a lens of self-pity, and basically flip the universe off every time you don’t get your way, there are still people on this messy little planet who will love you, forgive you, and wisely tell you the truth about yourself. (That is in The Script, by the way. But don’t expect everyone to have read that one, much less actually follow it.) 

Reality check number two: Happiness is not a little somethin’-somethin’ Santa or Cupid or Apple slips into your stocking because you’ve been good all year…or at least you haven’t been as bad as you could have been, as in you mostly dressed modestly, avoided the f-word**in public, and didn’t punch anybody in the face. Happiness isn’t something “deserved” by virtue of birth like,say,  justice. If it’s deserved, it’s a right; if it’s a right, it’s something that can be demanded. From whom? From people who don’t follow scripts? Good luck with that. 

No, happiness isn’t under the jurisdiction of a government, a people group, a social situation, or everyday circumstances. Happy people are everywhere, even in places we’d never think to look for them: hospitals, shelters, third world countries, even (gasp) Wall Street. And here’s what positive psychology has discovered happy people have in common: They are smarter, more successful, healthier, and better able to manage stress than chronically unhappy people. And those bonuses are the EFFECT of their happiness, not the cause. In other words, gratitude and optimism–the two main ingredients of happiness–have pretty sweet benefits. But if we wait for the benefits to create the happiness, we are doing the illogical, impossible equivalent of waiting for the muscle tone and weight loss to create the desire to start exercising and eating right. That’s not how this works. That’s not how any of this works.*** Happy people follow the biblical precept of humility: They recognize they aren’t all that thus they have no expectation of special treatment, they attend to the needs of others before their own desires, and they are grateful for the smallest of gestures and the simplest of pleasures. (That’ll travel. And it has. Through time and space.) 

Reality check number three: Your “heart” is stupid sometimes. Do not, I repeat, do not follow it without checking with your head, your gut, and a long-range financial planner. (Sort of just kidding on that last part.) Here’s the thing: In real life–which is nothing like TV life, Hallmark–hearts are smart. [Pause while the unintentional rhyme is acknowledged.] Hearts are so smart that they are constantly sending complex messages to brains that keep bodies functioning efficiently. The heart is the body’s pace car; it’s the organ the other organs will die for. Seriously. So it’s no pink tissue paper decoration for your rib cage. But what Hallmark calls “the heart” is actually the emotions. And emotions, while valid measures of things like grief and excitement and desire to parachute out of a plane, can be messed with by lack of sleep, rubber snakes, and hormones. So emotions aren’t bad tour guides but they make pretty lousy team leaders. And they should never be your pace car. Wisdom should be the voice in your head when your emotions are screaming and rattling their crib…or their cage. Emotions may tell you everyone but you has it great and you just can’t get a break. Wisdom knows that’s absurd and if you’d stop whining and start making better choices, you’d be more likely to accomplish and/or attract the very thing you desire. Emotions may tell you that you’ve been through a lot and you deserve to feel miserable. Wisdom won’t even be listening to that mess because it’ll be too busy helping someone else out of his misery. Emotions may tell you that it’s too late, that there’s no hope for you. But wisdom will patiently, gently, tirelessly remind you that every breath represents the gift of hope and that it’s never too late as long as there’s still time on the clock. 

There’s still time on the clock, dear one. There’s still time on the clock, breath in your body, hope in your heart, and light in the window. Come home. 

Happy Thanksgiving. 

*I want an Alaskan cruise. 

**I more or less lifted these two lines from a blog a friend shared with me…but it sounds like something I would say…which is why she shared it with me…

***Right, Stacie? 

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Boycott Black…THANKSGIVING?!

Many bloggers have already weighed in on this, so much so that my two cents worth may be mere ripples in a cheap mall fountain. In fact, when I got Matt Walsh’s blog in my inbox recently, I nearly aborted this post because he said a lot of what I wanted to say, what I’d already been ranting about, and said it better. Then I thought, nah, not everyone reads his blog* and I want my few and faithful readers to know what side I’m on and why.

Here’s what side I’m on: Shopping sales on sacred days is stupid. Thanksgiving may not qualify as a holy day, but thankfulness certainly ought to be sacred, as opposed to the cheap game we’ve turned it into by thanking God for parking spots, for discounts on the latest technology, for our favorite food. It’s disturbing that much of what people are showing gratitude for is based on some sliding scale of specialness: “I’m thankful for my home because many are homeless. I’m thankful for my well-stocked pantry because many are starving.” Yes, we ought to be genuinely thankful for our provisions but not because they compare favorably to the provisions of those who didn’t happen to win the born-privileged-in-a-first-world-country lottery. Comparative gratitude is just veiled bragging.

Sort of like this: I’m thankful that I ended up in a profession that allows me to have the week of Thanksgiving off. And while I don’t get paid for those days, I’m thankful that my contract is such that I can enjoy the break without fearing financial ruin. But I’m even more thankful for those who chose the medical and public safety professions. Emergencies don’t take holidays, so those folks can’t always celebrate with their families. I salute them. And gas station attendants. I’m thankful there are a few bright spots providing fuel and coffee to those who must be on the road to assist the rest of us.

But I am not in the least bit thankful that some retailers will be open on Thanksgiving day, and I don’t give a rip how deep the discounts will be.

Here’s why: We already suck** at family time, at setting aside even an hour to just sit and talk to one another without distractions. When I poll my high school students about how many have family meals sans technology, the response is depressing. Fewer than one-third of my bedroom-community, Bible-belt sophomores eat a TV/cell phone free meal with their families once a week. Thanksgiving is a family-oriented holiday. Shopping on Thanksgiving is no more a family activity than the Hunger Games is a harmless contest. Stay home and talk to your kids, parents, crazy aunts and uncles. Play a game. Take a walk. Try some face time that doesn’t require a smart phone.

Here’s another why: We already have enough stuff, hence our shallow list of things for which we are thankful. I’m not saying never make another purchase; I’m just pleading with you to not make it on Thanksgiving. It’ll keep. And it will likely still be on sale, especially if enough of us don’t show up on Thanksgiving. Basic economics, people…We drive the market. It’s time we took the back the controls.

And then there’s this: Because some knuckleheads think it’s a good idea to start Black Friday on Thanksgiving, the people who work for them will miss time with their families (and this it the part that ticked me off the most) to wait on people who have the luxury of having the day off with theirs. Granted, not all of the shoppers will be middle class professionals, but I bet someone could make a pretty distinct have/have not pie chart out of customer/employee stats.

I pointed that out to some acquaintances when the “Open Thanksgiving Day” announcements started hitting the newsfeed, and I was stunned at the responses: “So, they’ll probably get time and a half. I bet they could use the money” and “If they don’t like it, they can just quit, work somewhere else.” Um, no. I was a single mother for several years when my three children were young. I had not yet completed my degree, I was receiving no child support, my car was good for only short trips. My employment options were limited, so–because social services programs don’t pay for everything (or end poverty) and because I knew that I alone was responsible for my children and my choices–I took various low-paying jobs with few benefits to keep the electric bill paid and the kids in second-hand shoes. I could not have afforded to walk off those jobs: If I had been scheduled by my employer on a Thanksgiving, I’d have had to find a relative to keep my three small children so I could spend the “holiday” waiting on people who were getting discounts on things their children didn’t need at any price. I would not have been grateful for the time and a half. I would have been…sad.

I know exactly what it feels like to be treated like a scullery maid by someone who could not give a flip about my forlorn little family as long as she gets “an amazingly good deal, y’all!” and still has time to enjoy a latte and designer pie with her little darlings…or Folgers and leftovers…or whatever. And I know exactly what it feels like to have to work for whatever whenever so a corporation can provide bonuses to its already far-above-the-national-average executives who fly their families to resorts for the holidays.

I’m thankful I am not–and never will be–one of those jerks. I’m spending Thanksgiving with my friends and my family. I challenge you to do the same.

James 1: 27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. 

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* For the record, almost everyone reads Matt Walsh’s blog. And if my audience starts reading it, I’ll have a lot less to write about.

**A lot of you recoil at this word because you associate it with a very narrow, very inappropriate connotation. But it existed long before that vulgar usage (if you don’t know what I’m referring to, don’t ask me to explain it) and has maintained several meanings during and since. Bottom line: It fits here.

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