“Do not spoil what you have
by desiring what you have not;
remember that what you now have
was once among the things you only hoped for.”
Early yesterday morning, when it was still barely light outside, I began this post. I had found the quotations and begun working with photos when I realized my allotted time had elapsed.
It was time to slice the roasted sweet potatoes and layer them with fresh orange juice and maple syrup, sprinkle them with spice, and assemble all of the bits and pieces we planned to take with us to Thanksgiving dinner across the state.
And that is how yesterday’s post landed in my “drafts” file, photo-less and unfinished. And Thanksgiving day slipped into “Black Friday.”
I enjoy the irony of how only in America the nationally declared “Day of Thanksgiving” shifted; in my lifetime, may I add; to the national weekend of greed.
Our Thanksgiving Day passes more in contemplation of what wonderful deals we’ll score on Friday than it does in appreciation for the blessings we already enjoy.
“True happiness is to enjoy the present,
without anxious dependence upon the future,
not to amuse ourselves with either hopes or fears
but to rest satisfied with what we have,
which is sufficient,
for he that is so wants nothing.
The greatest blessings of mankind
are within us and within our reach.
A wise man is content with his lot,
whatever it may be,
without wishing for what he has not.”
There was a time, when my daughter was little, when I headed out before dawn each Friday after Thanksgiving with a list and a plan.
It was honestly the best way to make the Christmas budget stretch to cover all of those extended family members I wanted to remember, and also have a beautiful stack of gifts for my own daughter and husband at the same time.
These were the days before online shopping was so accessible; Amazon wasn’t an option and I still shopped the tool sales at our local Sears store.
I’ve watched the “wave” of shopping mania swell, crest, and perhaps begin to subside a bit.
Many of us wait now for “Cyber-Monday.” And even more of us have noticed that desperate retailers continue to offer deals and specials right up through Christmas Eve.
Some of the urgency has dissipated to grab the “Door-Busters.” Wiser shoppers watch and wait… like a skilled hunter… knowing a better shot will come at that important purchase.
But stepping back a bit for the wider view, we’re still in the mind-set of acquisition rather than appreciation.
Our environment has conditioned us to participate in an all-out shopping extravaganza in December. And at some point we’ll purchase most anything, even a ridiculous bit of merchandise at an insane price just to have a splashy “gift” for someone. (Yes, I’ve been reading those catalogs again. The photos of $30 cheese logs and $50 holiday cakes are horribly fascinating for some unknown reason.)
And that is how we came to find ourselves on the Colonial Parkway this morning enjoying the sunshine and taking photos rather than shopping. That’s right. I didn’t even shop my favorite spots online this morning. It was a matter of principle for me today.
“Piglet noticed that even though
he had a Very Small Heart,
it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.”
― A.A. Milne
We wanted to appreciate the gorgeous day, the gift of health and well being, and the joy of spending time together this morning. We dressed warmly and set out before breakfast, while the world remained ice-clad.
It is our intention to simplify the gifting aspect of Christmas this year. We believe the spirit of giving is a year-round endeavor; not to be saved for holidays only.
We’ve also realistically realized that our family members are more in need of time and attention at the moment than merchandise.
Yet shopping is a hard habit to break. I’ve dipped into several online retailers today. And promptly clicked out without purchase from all but one.
And to be honest with you, the purchases I made at that bookstore, with their coupon, were mostly for us. Yes, I took advantage of the deals today to get a CD of Pete Seeger singing folk songs for my infant granddaughter, but that is the only “gift” so far today.
What about you? Are you shopping today? And if you are, were your purchases gifts for yourself, or for others?
I’ve longed suspected that a lot of the shopping done in December is personal shopping. The car commercials are the most brazen in admitting this, by far. But I suspect that many of us wait for the deals of December to get the things we’ve wanted for ourselves for a while.
Which brings us back to Thanksgiving; and the holiday’s roots in appreciation for simple survival through life-threatening hardships.
We’ve come a stretch as a nation since those early settlement days. And we’ve come a long way as a culture from idealism to consumerism.
“Cultivate the habit of being grateful
for every good thing that comes to you,
and to give thanks continuously.
And because all things
have contributed to your advancement,
you should include all things
in your gratitude.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
My daughter, who works in retail at the moment, just called to tell me her store more than doubled its sales goal last night. It was their first year to open in the afternoon on Thanksgiving.
They sold more yesterday evening than I made in my first two years of teaching combined.
I have noticed that I feel far more peace and happiness when I’m enjoying those things already in my life than when I’m on the hunt for something new.
And that may be the best reason I can offer for spending today still focused on gratitude and Thanksgiving.
We may go buy our Christmas tree tomorrow. But we plan to simply enjoy the moment today.