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OPINION: Who Are We Thanking This Thanksgiving?

Paul Milliken, VOX Video Editor

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Editor’s Note: Please read this op/ed article all the way to the bottom, and then tell us what you are thankful for.

We all love Thanksgiving – the roasted turkey, the gravy-covered mashed potatoes, the stuffing, and the cranberry sauce.  Yet with all the traditional ways of celebrating Thanksgiving, it can be easy to forget the true meaning of Thanksgiving.  

As Catholics, we know that the purpose of Thanksgiving is to give thanks to God.  A look at some of the Thanksgiving practices in our culture, however, would seem to indicate that not everyone does.  Perhaps a good illustration of this is that it’s often referred to as “Turkey Day.” 

There is also statistical evidence to support this view.  Some polls indicate that a sizeable amount of Americans (around 60%), do not say anything that they are thankful for before Thanksgiving dinner.  Only slightly more than half pray beforehand.  While this apparent lack of thankfulness is sad, there are also some who are expressing thanks, but in the wrong place.

For instance, there is a #DogThanking movement on Twitter, designed to thank dogs for the joys they bring.  Pets are a wonderful thing, and it is certainly good to feel grateful for them, but it is not the pets themselves that are responsible for this.  We should thank God for giving us the pets, not the pets for being the way God made them.

Still, while it can be tempting to cast blame around, we should refrain from doing so.  For one thing, we do not really know if others are being ungrateful.  Moreover, we should take time to reflect and make sure that we ourselves are truly as thankful as we should be.

 Do we take the time to go to Mass and thank God for all the blessings He has given us, or do we instead sleep late and watch the Thanksgiving parade?  Do we look forward to this day as a day to give thanks for all we have, including the good food, or do we focus entirely on the food?  This is a much more important question to answer than the question of whether or not our neighbors are celebrating properly.

Besides, not everyone is ignoring the true significance of the day.  While surveys might indicate that many do not plan on stating the reasons they feel grateful, other studies show that a large percentage of the population does.  A 2016 poll reveals that an overwhelming 98% of Americans feel grateful for something.  It even shows that nearly two-thirds of them recognize God as the giver of their blessings.  

All the things that Thanksgiving is famous for – the food, parades, football, and Black Friday Shopping –  are good things.  There is nothing wrong with them.  They only become problematic when people see them as ends in themselves, instead of means to a greater end: Giving Thanksgiving to God.  While there is still a certain amount of disconnect in our culture, with too much emphasis on the good things themselves and not enough on their source, we can feel comforted by the knowledge that many people do feel appreciative of their blessings.  

Finally, before casting aspersions on other people, we should take a careful look at ourselves.  Are we honestly giving thanks ourselves, or are we guilty of the very thing we see in others?

What are you thankful for?

Sources:

[huffingtonpost.com  Almost Half Of Americans Don’t Say Thanks – To God Or Each Other – Before Thanksgiving Dinner.  Retrieved 11/16/17.]

[publicholidays.us/thanksgiving-day.  Retrieved 11/16/17.]

[christiantoday.com  Americans Are Still Most Thankful to God at Thanksgiving, According to New Study.  Retrieved 11/16/17.]

[multivu.com  Celebrate the National Dog Show Presented by Purina and the Holiday Season by Thanking Your Favorite Pooch to Benefit Canine Health Research.  Retrieved 11/17/17.]

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OPINION: Who Are We Thanking This Thanksgiving?