Ken Dake just forwarded me an advertisement by a leading American company. That firm has re-christened our upcoming national holiday. It wished everyone a “Happy Thanksgetting!” Seriously. For some marketing agency somewhere, it has actually come to that.
It’s really no big surprise that we live in an “It’s-all-about-me” or “What’s-in-it-for-me” society. But, we civil folks at least ordinarily try to remain subtle about it. We still use phrases like “trickle down,” implying that our desire for more material possessions is somehow altruistic, that the more we have the more others lower down the economic ladder will be able to receive from us. (Note: It usually doesn’t work that way. Mark King shared some interesting figures with our Board recently indicating that statistically, the larger one’s income the smaller the percentage of said income one donates to charities.) Anyway, we usually at least try to disguise greed under the mask of merciful motives. For any old enough to remember L’il Abner, you will recall that effort made comic in the frequently recurring line, “What’s good for General Bullmoose is good for the USA!” Somehow, even when we refused to practice generosity, at some level we have always known it is still the right way to live. But now, for some even that nod toward a loftier spirit has been discarded and the ethos of greed has been publicly embraced: “Happy Thanksgetting!”
The reality is, of course, that “getting” does not make one happy. Do a Google search sometime for “famous last words.” You will find some startling final utterances from people who seemed to have everything but on their deathbeds realized they never had what actually mattered most. When we succumb to a desire to acquire more and keep more, the one thing we do not acquire is a significant level of personal satisfaction. Instead, we envy someone else who has even more – or, the more we get, the more we want. Even mega-billionaires nowadays (think Warren Buffett and Bill Gates) are most often in the news because of their commitments to give money away and their encouragement of others to do the same. St. Francis hit the nail on the head when he said: “It is in giving that we receive.”
You want to be happy? Here’s the key. Focus less on what you desire and more on what you can share with others. Focus less on what you have and more on what others lack. Never let a day pass that you do not intentionally give something to others free of charge. Maybe it is a financial donation to a church or a helping agency. Maybe it is time spent volunteering in a not-for-profit institution. Maybe it is the gift of listening to someone who is lonely, the gift of forgiving someone who is guilty, or the gift of simply being there for someone who is walking through one of life’s painful, shadowy experiences. Live in such fashion that each night before bed, you can look in the mirror and say: “I may not be perfect, but the world is a better place tonight because I was in it today.” Do that, and your spirit will have reasons for thanks (and also for joy). That’s the bottom line truth of the matter, regardless of what any TV advertisement may say to the contrary. A spirit of thanks is inextricably bound to the practice of giving... which is why those who are wise will retain the ageless phrase: “Happy Thanksgiving!”