Wally, my former pastor, is now the chaplain at my university and recently he asked me to briefly share about thankfulness. “Just a few things. 3-4 minutes. And, I wouldn’t be disappointed if what you shared was a little humorous.” Wally is the king of “a little humorous.” In fact, he’s “a lot humorous.” Imagine having Jerry Seinfeld as your pastor – that’s Wally. So I took him at his word, but he didn’t tell me anything about the nature of the service so I, stupidly, figured that I was a pre-chapel joke of some sort.
Then I got to chapel and realized that it was a sober worship liturgy with meditations and songs and readings and it was all very pious… and I was the final “meditation.” A responsible and mature person would have abandoned his weak attempt at humor and improvised a mushy “I’m thankful for my family” kind of thing, but I’m not responsible or mature.
So with a few minor edits I said something like this:
Thank you, Wally.
What am I thankful for? I’m thankful for this opportunity. I’m thankful that I’m thankful. In fact, I’m thankful that I’m thankful that I’m thankful, which makes me meta-meta-thankful, which is pretty dog-gone thankful.
But besides that, I have 6 other things, for which I am thankful:
1). I’m thankful for essential oils – like lavender and eucalyptus… and dog’s breath and 10w-30. I’m also thankful that essential doesn’t actually mean essential, thank God – because I’ve never used essential oils and I’m not dead. Still, there are times when I’d really like to cram some ginko seed pods in an infuser and just de-stress.
2. I’m thankful that I don’t have a foot fungus, like Wally.
3. I’m thankful that, as a man, I don’t HAVE to shave my legs. And, 3a) I’m thankful that in Ithaca, NY, nobody has to shave their legs. [A nearby town. A famously left-leaning hippy kind of place.]
4. I’m thankful for Thanksgiving, which is my favorite holiday, especially the part where you’re just about to eat and somebody suggests we go around the table and share one thing we’re thankful for and I sit their annoyed, because it takes forever for people to drag out their thanksgiving cliches and there I sit, unthankfully watching my mashed potatoes get cold, watching the cranberry sauce on my plate melt and bleed into my dressing which should just not happen and, worse, watching – visibly watching – the salmonella and other bacteria colonize the turkey.
5. I’m thankful that God doesn’t strike us all dead with a thunderbolt when we go shopping on Black Friday, even though he probably wants to. I mean, you just spent an entire day offering your thanks to God and patting yourself on the back for how content you are, and then, with no sense of irony, you go out and engage in a materialistic and consumeristic debauch in which you engage pitched battle for cheap home electronics and tickle me Elmo dolls (or whatever the latest must-have absurdity is this year).
6. I’m thankful that the day after Black Friday, I can spend a good hour watching amazing youtube videos of women in Target beating each other senseless and old men in Wal-Mart beating each other senseless as they fight over the last stainless steel toaster oven that’s on sale for 40% off. That’s more fun than watching football. I’m also thankful for the people who go out on Black Friday, JUST for the purpose shooting those youtube videos.
I could go on and on… I’m just bubbling with thanks, but let me close with something serious… and I do have a point here, though I haven’t really worked this out yet. If, like me, you’re having trouble giving thanks it could be because you are obnoxiously wealthy and it’s hard to give sincere thanks when you already have everything. And if you think I’m not talking to you – but only to other people here who are rich, you’re wrong. You are rich. Obnoxiously rich. – we all are. No culture on the planet has ever had more than we do. You are going to college – that alone makes you richer than 94% of the world’s population.
Look, I am not one of those Antifa America haters who thinks all of our wealth was created by imperialism and the exploitation of the poor. America is successful because of ambition, thrift, enterprise, and sensible values like a healthy respect for the law. But there is a world out there of such obscene poverty that it makes US saying “Thank you, Jesus” sound gluttonous and mean. How should I feel about spending more money on food for Thanksgiving weekend (my rough estimate is $450) than an average Afghan family makes in an entire year?
Give thanks, but Jesus said he didn’t come for rich people and I hope the fact that you don’t really need anything gnaws at you a little bit. Thanksgiving is a feast day – enjoy! But maybe think about ways you can (intelligently) use your wealth to create thankfulness in other parts of the world. Or strategize such that your thankfulness actually manifests contentment and becomes a hedge against the materialism of the standard American Christmas.
At the very least, ask your “direct sales home party essential oils consultant” if she has a special something to put in the infuser that will, 1). make your house smell like pine nuts and lilacs and, 2) keep the people in your home from smelling like ungrateful pigs.