Thanksgiving is a wonderful holiday in theory. A day in which we pause collectively to reflect, commune, and return thanks for all the many blessings each of can count. For most people in North America, of course, we have much for which to be thankful. So, in theory, it’s an important holiday.
Of course, theory and practice don’t always align. On Friday of last week – the day after the U.S. holiday of Thanksgiving – we sadly learned that some “Black Friday” shoppers pepper-sprayed, shot, mugged, and fought each other for deals. Perhaps “Black Friday” should be re-named “Black-Eye Friday.”
In any case, we are left to wonder what has gone wrong with this notion of Thanksgiving? How is it possible for people to spend a whole day pausing and reflecting on their many blessings in a communal celebration of life’s goodness and then, a mere few hours later, turn violent in an effort to get even more of life’s goodness.
I think part of the problem is that many view life as a sequence of discrete transactions, instead of as a collection of relationships. When we view life as a sequence of transactions, our conspicuous self-interest takes front and center. If I want or believe I need something, I go get it. Regardless of who I have to step on. And since I view life as a sequence of discrete, unrelated transactions, my job is to get the most I can during the current transaction. There are no “relationships” to protect or nurture. My job is simply to “get mine.” It’s the thinking that gets us “Black-Eye Friday” scenarios. “Walmart shoppers, pepper spray on isle four!”
Even the way we talk about Thanksgiving or “giving thanks” can be problematic. In a world of transactional thinkers, when you “give” something it can mean that you are “losing” something. And since transactional thinkers believe their job is to get the most they can for themselves out of most every transaction, a day of “giving thanks” means a day of losing. And who likes to lose?
In the face of such twisted thinking, I’m proud that our profession encourages people to view life differently. To focus on relationships and not transactions. To practice the act of giving because it not only blesses others, it blesses the giver more. And to help people understand and live out their real task on this earth — to make the journey of others a little more meaningful.
I hope each of you enjoyed a blessed day of Thanksgiving. And I hope you are honored to be serving in your role. You encourage relationships. You promote giving. And you bring out the very best in others.
For each of you, I give thanks.