Finding joy in what we have

The Examiner

Late last winter, a friend and I had a chat about Lent.

What are you giving up this year? 

I don’t know. Me either. 

Jeff Fox

That’s not really the point, you know. Yeah, you’re right. 

It’s about attitude and a period of intentional reflection.

I told my friend that what I had been thinking about wasn’t doing without something but rather the simple idea of enough. Can we push back on the mindset that more, more, more is inherently good, is the best measure of success, and is the surest road to happiness? That seemed like it would be worth chewing on for 40 days.

I’m not always as good at gratitude as the preachers and Hallmark cards say I should be. Neither do I consider myself materialistic, though we cannot escape the culture in which we live and breathe. 

That said, I do not take for granted a roof over my head, clean running water or the next paycheck. This has been a year, even more than in times before, of awareness of simple physical things: clean and warm clothes, Wi-Fi, the lifeline of the daily mail, flowers blooming in front of the house, tools for today’s tasks, a well-cooked meal, a good book.

Needless to say, the pandemic blew up our usual traditions of Lent, Easter and just about every milestone since. Now we come to another, the distinctly American version of Thanksgiving, and it is disrupted too. Same for Christmas next month and likely a second Easter next spring

I cannot fully express how deeply frustrating this is. I like to think this is the one holiday that helps keep our nation rooted, however tenuously, in a degree of humility and a recognition of our forebears’ hard work and our own blessed blind luck. Sure, the holiday still happens today, but without the rituals and routines it doesn’t work quite the same. 

There’s good reason to hope Thanksgiving 2021 will be better – much better – though we do a disservice with phrases such as “back to normal.” We are promised little and entitled to less, no matter how much we might wish otherwise. Letting go of entitlement is both scary and liberating.

Would any of us care to re-live Thanksgiving 1862? Or 1931? Or 1943? I dare say not. Are we living in the worst time ever? Hardly. Can we be more attentive to blessings and more grateful in hard times? We can, and we should.

Jeff Fox is The Examiner’s editor. Reach him at jeff.fox@examiner.net or on Twitter at @FoxEJC.