Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving 2012


In years past, I have expressed thanks for all manner of things in my life, everything from family and friends, from our youngest grandson, born on Thanksgiving Day two years ago, to turkeys, to stop lights and the electrons that speed our electronic messages around the world to the fact we have so many things to be thankful for. I have written about the concept of thanking and how it is expressed in different languages. The more one writes about thankfulness and tries to enumerate all the wonderful things and people in this world for which one is thankful, the more one comes to the inevitable conclusion that everything, even that which is seemingly negative, is a gift, and gifts beget thankfulness, which pours out in thanksgiving.
In today’s world, at least in the western world, we hear a lot about entitlement, what we all deserve or don’t deserve. There’s even a phrase, “the deserving poor.” We say he or she deserves this or that or didn’t deserve this or that. We say we are entitled to things as much as the next person. And in the most insidious development of the modern world, when others have more than they do, our fellow citizens not only covet what their neighbors have, they try to find “legal” means to take what belongs to others for themselves.  Like Cain, instead of giving of their best and improving their lot in a land of plenty, they rather envy their fellows, their Abels. They compare themselves to those who have more, and instead of admiring them and using their success as a model for their own, they rather envy others and fill themselves with bitterness.
As a lad, I worked for many summers at the Country Club of Ashland. The members were the richest, most successful people in our community. Our family was not rich, but never once did I think they should give me some of what they had earned, simply because they had more. Instead, I looked up to them as a model of success. I admired them and wanted to one day emulate them, and I was very thankful to live in a country where my hard work and perseverance would be rewarded, and I could be similarly successful. 
The fact is we human beings don’t deserve anything. Everything we have is a gift. We didn’t have to be created. It was an act of free will from One who chose out of love to bring us into being. The ground of our being, our physical being, is literally the ground, in Hebrew the adamah, the red earth, out of which a lump of clay was formed into an adam. The marvelous body in which we live was so carefully designed in every way for our well-being. The breath of life was breathed into us as a free gift.  All the ingredients of our survival were provided for us by grace.
Our specific creation happened as the result of an act of love between our parents, with no help from us. We didn’t choose to be born. Nevertheless, we came out of the womb as helpless beings, needing everything, deserving nothing on the basis of our own merit. It was all grace, the grace of God, the grace of our parents, freely given, not on the basis of entitlement.  The fact there is an innate parental love for a child and the moral obligation to care for that child is another gift we didn’t “deserve.” 
No matter how poor we are, we don’t deserve what others have earned. True, there is a moral code which obligates those who have more to help those with less, but that again is grace, a gift, not something we have earned or are entitled to.  

Now, I am not disputing that as we grow and mature into adults, the mores, moral codes, and laws we grow up with produce situations in which we merit or owe from or to others. I am not talking about contractual obligations. I am not saying “you didn’t build that,” but what I am saying is that even these systems, biblical commandments, constitutional government, law and order, the market, are gifts for which we ought to be thankful. They also reflect grace. Gifts from on high.  The fact there is right and wrong, truth and untruth, is inherent in the universe, as created. We didn’t put it there. It is something for which to be thankful.  
                                                                                       
You see? As we endeavor to list all the things for which to be thankful, we are overwhelmed by the task, because everything in life is an object worthy of thanksgiving. From the tiny universe inside the atom to the endless expanse of space out there, everything around us, whether matter, emotion, or spirit, is an object engendering thankfulness.
So, it dawned on me this year that I am thankful for BEING itself, for my being and for the fact that anything exists at all. "Light, be, come into being, have existence...and it was so." The ground of our spiritual being is in the "I will be who I will be," the self-existent One, the One who brings into existence everything that comes into existence. The "yesh," the "there is."This is the sine qua non of all existence. We take for granted the fact we exist, but is this not the greatest gift of all, without which none of the myriad other gifts could be experienced.


This past week I have been suffering pain in my left ankle and toe that has varied from barely bearable to excruciating. Yet, even pain is a gift. It certainly tells me I am alive. It also may alert me, and my doctor, to another problem. It may be alerting me to changes required in my diet and lifestyle. For this pain, too, I give thanks.

So, this Thanksgiving, I thank God that I exist and that you exist, and that we recognize that we exist and can interact and bless one another and love one another, and I realize that all the countless things for which I am thankful exist because a self-existent One brought them into being for me and for you and for us and for all of us, and as we continue to walk and talk and build and do and give and receive and learn and teach, we can see a brighter future, a better world, a city on a hill, and for that too, I give thanks. 
That beautiful Hebrew blessing, the Shehecheyanu, expresses very succinctly much of what I have been trying to say.
Baruch Atah, Adonai Eloheinu, Melech Ha-Olam,
Shehecheyanu, V'kimanu, V'higyanu, Lazman Ha-Zeh.
Blessed art Thou, O LORD our God, King of the Universe,
Who has given us life and has sustained us
And has enabled us to reach this season. 
And for that, we give thanks.

3 comments:

Bonnie said...

Dad,

I am blown away by this post. If I ever wondered why I am so thankful, I need wonder no more. It is because of you. And Mom. And your outlook and attitudes. And your instilling them in me. It's true ... EVERYTHING in life is worth being thankful for. Thank you for reminding me. I needed to remember it today. Maybe that is why it took me a few days to get time to read this post, because today is the day I needed to read it.

I love you.

Now I must go post a link to facebook so that everyone in my little world knows they should come read this!

Bon

Sabba and Nanny said...

Thank you.

jgy said...

Thank you! Beautiful expression of thanks!

Joanne ( A Corner View friend of Bonnie!)