I want to scream every time someone uses the terms "we've been blessed" or suggests that one "counts their blessings." Often this leads people into believing that God favors one group or individual over another. A friend said one day that "If God shows his blessings to those of us who have much, what about those who are in devastating poverty?' A fair point.
Jesus seems to rail against this idea of divine retribution. That God doesn't show his favoritism to the rich and powerful nor does God smite sinners with illness or poverty. It seems to me that "counting our blessings" may actually be a sinful act of pride: We think that God loves us more than anyone else.
So then what the heck is the point of Thanksgiving?
Perhaps the point is to simply realize that we are not always in control.
That the gift of life itself is enough to be thankful to God. That God everlasting forgiveness, a free gift to all, is even more of a thankful moment for us all.
And for those of us who have been born into good circumstances, by the mere randomness of the world (with a nod to those in the scientific community), today should not merely be a day to take stock of our bank accounts, jobs, houses and cars and to say like the Pharisee, "Whew! I'm glad i was not born into such poverty." Rather, when we realize that God shows love to all the world and that we are called into that same kind of love by Jesus through his own gift of self, we too, have an obligation and an opportunity for self-giving.
Often those of us who have little or nothing are indeed the most generous. But even in our own communities, families, or dare I say churches, are we truly generous with our time, our funds, our gifts? Do we offer what we have for the world in need or do we simply store up for a rainy day?
So how will we spend Thanksgiving? Is it a day that we simply gorge ourselves on a bountiful harvest that pilgrims and indians believed incorrectly were signs of God's favor, or are we more sophisticated in our belief in God?
Some initial thoughts for an "alternative Thanksgiving":
1) Simply volunteer some time at a local shelter or soup kitchen.
2) Invite people over who indeed are needy...perhaps emotionally rather than financially even.
3) For many, spending time with family or friends that they don't often see or that they may even neglect might be a nice mindful way to engage with the holiday.
4) How about a Thanksgiving fast? To think about what we consume at great lengths and then to mindfully consume less?
5) What can we do to renew the earth's resources? Can we consume less, use better products, buy organic, support local businesses?
6) Planning a Thanksgiving Day mission trip to a poor part of the world might indeed be a larger scale event.
Indeed, I also will suggest that I'm not trying to be the Thanksgiving Scrooge. Have your turkey with all the fixins! Enjoy it. But also be mindful of those who don't have anything and to consider what role we play in giving what we have in our bounty to those who have none.