Halloween. Thanksgiving. Christmas. Bam, bam, bam.
The trifecta of holidays, all in a row.
The middle one is this week.
Like a middle child, it gets lost in the shuffle.
Also, at least from a child’s perspective, there are other reasons to consider Thanksgiving less than a big deal. Halloween involves costumes, mystery and people you don’t know giving you gobs of candy. Christmas involves people you do know — and an obese orbiting elf — lavishing you with presents. How can Thanksgiving — with mushy stuffing and mushier casseroles as the main attraction — compete with that?
Besides, Thanksgiving has come to be known as the day before a Friday when parents vanish in the predawn hours only to come dragging home, either elated or angry, in time for a turkey sandwich and a nap.
And this year in Mississippi, a little kid can forget about receiving much attention when the Saturday after T-Day dawns. Some dads will be running up and down the street ringing cowbells. Some moms will be shouting “Hotty Toddy” from their car windows at every intersection.
But Thanksgiving is important.
As I write just about every year, nothing is more predictive of a happy life than whether one chooses to adopt an attitude of gratitude.
And it is a choice.
It’s easy — so easy — to fall in with the crowd that meets in the break room at work and fuels a constant buzz about how much they hate their jobs, how the bosses are unfair, how the clients or customers are idiots and how they can’t wait to get out.
It’s easy — so easy — to get down about long waits, high prices, rude or indifferent service.
It’s easy — so easy — to be convinced that the state and the nation are headed for certain disaster, that all other drivers are idiots, that your neighbors are the trashiest people ever born.
One alternative to avoiding those temptations is to become like Pollyanna. Never see the down side of any situation. Grin all the time.
That’s not good, either.
There are problems.
There are issues that need to be addressed.
There is grief. For every hut the Pilgrims built, they dug seven graves.
Having an attitude of gratitude is not the same as becoming Gomer Pyle.
It’s merely an acceptance of life as a gift, an appreciation of the gift and an effort to make each and every day as good as it can be under the circumstances.
America lost poet Maya Angelou earlier this year, but we got to keep her words. Here are some that say a lot:
“I’ve learned that no matter what happens, or how bad it seems today, life does go on, and it will be better tomorrow.
“I’ve learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way he/she handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage and tangled Christmas tree lights.
“I’ve learned that regardless of your relationship with your parents, you’ll miss them when they’re gone from your life.
“I’ve learned that making a ‘living’ is not the same thing as making a ‘life.’
“I’ve learned that life sometimes gives you a second chance.
“I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw something back.
“I’ve learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision.
“I’ve learned that even when I have pains, I don’t have to be one. I’ve learned that every day you should reach out and touch someone. People love a warm hug, or just a friendly pat on the back.
“I’ve learned that I still have a lot to learn.
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Thanksgiving has been marginalized in popular culture. It’s a uniquely American holiday, declared by a secular government but with significant religious underpinnings. It has become a day known for eating more than for fellowship, for shopping or preparing to shop more than for reflection.
But that’s OK.
Because if one day is the only day when a person is going to be thankful, it doesn’t mean much anyway.
Better to foster and maintain an attitude of gratitude day in and day out.
It is rewarding both to the individual and all who encounter the individual.
Charlie Mitchell is a Mississippi journalist and assistant dean of the Meek School of Journalism and New Media. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mitchell: Thanksgiving Morphs into Middle Child, but Does Matter
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