Instead of using pilgrims or praying hands as symbols of Thanksgiving, perhaps we should just drop the pretense and go with Ebenezer Scrooge. In the first place, it would recognize that our Christmas shopping binge has now swallowed up several months and other holidays, including the one that was intended for thankfulness. Also, Scrooge may best represent our values.
Charles Dickens’ miserly character paid his employee as little as possible, forced him to work as much as possible, allowed him hardly any time with his family over the holiday, and couldn’t care less about how the low wages affected the rest of his family, even the tiny one. To Scrooge, employee Bob Cratchit and his family were nothing more than a drain on his bottom line. And the holidays? A hindrance to making more money.
What really strikes me about Dickens’ character is that he‘s not only miserly but also miserable. There’s no gratitude in his heart, no joy in his soul. And those two go together, don’t they?
Think of the most thankful people you’ve known. Aren’t they also among the most joyful you’ve know? Thankfulness is a spirit, and they have chosen to live in it.
They recognize that they are blessed. They understand that each day is a great gift. They’re touched by the many acts of compassion all around them. They’re grateful for the countless people who nurture them, help them and love them each day. They appreciate our sacred interdependence. They look for ways to help others. They share generously and gladly.
Not Scrooge. He thinks he doesn’t need anyone. Nor does he care much about anybody else. He’s convinced that he has earned all that he has. His pile of money? It’s all that matters to him, and he believes that he built it all by himself. There’s no reason to show gratitude to anyone else.
Be thankful? Bah, humbug.
Could that be one of the reasons we’ve turned Thanksgiving into just another shopping day? We don’t recognize the gifts, so we don’t recognize the giver.
In many ways, we share Scrooge’s values.
Thankfully, the story doesn’t end there. Scrooge gets three unexpected visitors who show him what his life has become and where it is headed. He asks for another chance and gets it. From that morning on, he shares so freely and joyfully and generously with everyone — yes, even his employee — that he becomes a symbol of the holiday. He lives the rest of his life in a spirit of thankfulness.
May we become more like that Scrooge.
May we be thankful, every one.
Joe Kay is a professional writer living in the Midwest.