I’m in America, about to experience my first ‘proper’ thanksgiving. As a thanksgiving newbie, maybe I’m not the best person to be offering advice about this. But, since most Americans seem to have opted for the very sensible approach of distancing their annual celebration from the original thanksgiving setting – we try not to celebrate colonization and massacre any more – and turned instead to emphasising the holiday as a time of family, food and gratitude, I reckon I can stick my oar in – even if just to reflect on just how far our giving thanks to God is from some of the pretty basic social graces we abide by when thanking other humans.
Here are three things we don’t do when someone gives us something:
- Fail to acknowledge the gift at all.
Say you buy something incredibly thoughtful for a friend’s birthday. You watch them unwrap their other presents, feeling the excitement growing in the knowledge that your gift is perfect for them – picturing the excitement on their face. First, they don’t even notice your box, sitting there. Then, when they finally open it, they continue absentmindedly talking to someone else, neglect what you’ve given them, and don’t even acknowledge you.
Or say a friend said to you : “Tell you what, saying thank you every time you do something nice for me seems like a lot of effort, so just take this ‘thank you’ as good for a whole year, OK?” Are we even making the effort to say thank you to God for his gifts, outside of making a particular show of it a couple of times a year?
- Use the gift in a completely inappropriate way, regardless of what the giver says it’s for.
You get someone tickets to that thing they like. They say thank you, and then promptly use them as fire starters. You buy someone beautiful cushion covers and they cut them up as tea towels, while saying: “Thanks so much! These will come in really handy in the kitchen!” Similar to this is the feeling of discovering that the gift you got someone has never even been used – that the ‘thanks very much’ was immediately followed by putting the thing in a never-opened drawer.
Are we guilty of this? It’s all very well saying: “Thans for my house, God” but if we don’t use it in the way God intended – as a means to love other people, to show hospitality, to take in those who need shelter – then we may as well not say thank you at all. Are there gifts God has given us that we don’t use as we should? Which ones? How can we better use them as an expression of our gratitude? This video sums up the point.
- Going and buying something else.
So, your friend says thank you for all the lovely gifts and then immediately gets in the car and drives to the nearest shopping centre to buy more stuff. When you protest, saying: “Don’t you want to spend some time with these new things? And your friends who got them for you?” They reply: “I’d love to, really – but there’s a sale on…” If you have children, you might have experienced this at Christmas – all these new toys, and by the next day they’re asking for something else. Are we any better than that when it comes to God?
This probably doesn’t even require any explanation, beyond asking why we are buying more stuff. Do we not have enough stuff? For those of us stateside, how can we go and partake in ‘Black Friday’ when we’ve just made this big show of being grateful for things we already have? How can we put a stop to the ‘I’m grateful, but also…’ mentality when it comes to our things?