Thanksgiving requires shift in focus

Published 7:04 pm Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Over the years I’ve heard many of my friends lament the apparent decline of Thanksgiving Day in our lives, especially when compared to Christmas and even Halloween.

Apparently, they believe Thanksgiving has become a forgotten holiday, a day that is more about eating a big meal and getting ready for Black Friday. As a result, being thankful for one’s blessings, once a central part of the Thanksgiving celebration, is now a mere afterthought, often overlooked in the mad rush to complete preparations for the holiday season.

I know a lot of folks will sit down at the dinner table today and truly be thankful for all the good things in their lives. However, I must confess that I’m probably guilty of placing Thanksgiving on the back burner. In fact, I’m pretty sure I’ve helped create the problem my friends have been pointing out all these years.

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After all, it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement that surrounds the Christmas holidays. All of the decorations, Christmas songs and shopping for that one special gift make an intoxicating brew. In some ways, we treat the holidays as a drug, a way to escape our current troubles.

At least for me, it’s easy to focus on the glitz and forget about my problems. Conversely, it’s much harder to face reality and still be thankful for the good things in life because they’re difficult to recognize when life throws your curve balls.

Sometimes it’s just hard to be thankful, especially when times are tough. Just like a lot of people, I’ve experienced financial difficulties in the past and believe me, it’s not easy to be thankful when the wolf is at the door.

I’ve also seen family members experience health problems that are overwhelming at times. Being sick with no relief in sight is a difficult way to live, and it’s hard to focus on the good things when you’re in constant pain.

Finally, I’ve watched people I love cope with the death of a loved one, the most difficult thing we face in life. It’s almost impossible to be thankful for blessings when your world is crashing around you.

In my opinion, the problem with Thanksgiving being an overlooked holiday is not just an issue about our obsession with Christmas preparations. To me, it’s a consequence of how we live our lives year round. We tend to focus on the bad things and forget about the good things. Since we do this every day, why should it be a surprise that the holiday centered on being thankful has been placed on the back burner?

I believe my friends who lament the decline of Thanksgiving are essentially right, but their identification of Black Friday and Christmas shopping as the culprits misses the mark. To me, Thanksgiving has become much like any other day, where we seem to forget our blessings as we seek refuge from our problems with a big meal.

In order for Thanksgiving to reclaim its place as a central holiday in our lives, we need to take stock of our lives and really see the good that’s always been there, even though we often ignore it. Taking time today to reflect on these things will be a step in the right direction.

However, for the holiday to truly make a comeback, we need to treat every day like Thanksgiving. If we can do this simple task, the world will suddenly seem like a better place. To me, that’s what living is really about in the first place.

Roger Steele is general manager and advertising director of The Messenger.