Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Giving Thanks

Yes, I know. It's All Hallows' Eve, so I shouldn't be blogging on a Thanksgiving theme -- we've still got 24 days to go till that day (and yes, I'm counting!). I suppose I could blog on a Halloween theme, only I'm not sure what there is to say. The Sweet Girl's class did their Halloween party in the classroom this morning, and later this afternoon/evening, our church is putting on its big, annual "Fall Festival" bash where kids will play games, eat pizza and oodles of candy, and hear a funny skit (penned by my DH) and a talk (also given by my DH).

The Sweet Girl has already had way too much sugar for one day -- she's pretending to sleep her nap right now, but not doing a very good impression of sleep frankly. She's dressing up this year as a ladybug again -- same costume as last year. We asked her if she wanted to be something else, but she was firm in her decision to be a ladybug again. I can't say that I blame her. Princess dresses are fine, but wings are even better!

I've been wistfully wishing I could dress up as Harry Potter this evening. I confess that I bought a wand and glasses on major after-Halloween sale last year at K-Mart, while buying Thanksigiving napkins. My dear husband informs me that he doesn't think HP would be a wise choice, however, in our parish setting. I'm disappointed, because Harry is very much a hero of mine and sometimes one can't help but wish for some time to play dress-up.

Hmmm...this has turned into a Halloween post after all. But to get back to my original thought of giving thanks: we began looking for Thanksgiving books at the library on Saturday, and were slightly dismayed by the paucity of choices. Granted, savvier parents than us had begun checking some of the better looking ones out even earlier (and there we were congratulating ourselves to think to do it in late October!) but even so, some of the choices made me want to grit my teeth. LOTS of books about turkeys, a few historical attempts to share about the first Thanksgiving, and some nice stories about family gatherings (including one called The Memory Cupboard which I really like and hope to review). What I couldn't really seem to find was any book that dealt at all specifically with the idea of "giving thanks" -- at least not in any way I wanted to present it.

There was one book whose synopsis read: "While on a Thanksgiving Day errand for her mother, a little girl says thanks to all the things around her." I kind of blinked when I read that, and made myself read it again. Did it really say....? Yes, it did. She says "thanks to all the things around her."

Hmmm. I know we live in a post-Christian culture. I know our culture likes to flirt with paganism, and is often very uncomfortable with the notion of a personal God. All that makes my heart grieve, underneath the surface irritability I feel about children's books and children's t.v. programs that treat thankfulness either in some vague, warm and fuzzy sense (a generic "let's be thankful") or in this odd sense of "thanking things." This last understanding defies any sort of sense, as far as I can tell. Thankfulness is personal. We thank people -- for loving us, providing for us, giving us gifts. We don't thank things.

It would be like my dear husband giving me a beautiful sweater for Christmas, and me hugging it to me and exclaiming: "Oh, thank you, sweater! You're so warm and soft. Thank you for being a sweater and for being just the right color and size." The sweater frankly doesn't have much to do with it. It didn't make itself or choose itself. I thank my husband for the gift because it shows his love for me, it shows he was thinking about the colors I enjoy and my need for warmth. If I'm really trying to keep my heart in the right place, I might even spare a prayer of blessing and thanks for the unknown person who knitted the sweater.

I suppose if we don't understand God as a person, a personal being with personal attributes, most particularly the atrributes of creating and bountiful giving, then it would be hard to know exactly who to thank when we're overwhelmed by goodness or beauty. If we don't know who to thank, we turn I suppose to the gift instead of the Giver. But it doesn't make much sense. One can argue, yes, that animals and plants, rain and stars, are all more alive than, well, than a sweater, and certainly our relationships with animate creatures are more complex and alive than our relationship with inanimate things. They're our fellow creatures, yes, but like us they're still creatures. The sun shines because it was made to shine and it's doing its job, providing light, hence praising God as it does what it's created to do. I can feel grateful that there is sunshine, but there's no point in expressing gratitude to the sun, especially if we're not expressing gratitude to the One behind the sun.

I think St. Francis of Assisi had it right, in his "Canticle of the Sun" when he gave God all the praise for gifts that come through all that the Lord has made, and when he uses terms like "brother" and "sister" for the moon and sun, which highlights our shared creaturely status with those things.

Most high, all-powerful, all good, Lord!
All praise is yours, all glory, all honor
And all blessing.
To you alone, Most High, do they belong.
No mortal lips are worthy
To pronounce your name.

All praise be yours, my Lord, through all that you have made,
And first my lord Brother Sun,
Who brings the day; and light you give to us through him.
How beautiful is he, how radiant in all his splendor!
Of you, Most High, he bears the likeness.

I'm going to come back to this theme of thankfulness and gratitude during November. I really think it's worth thinking about, and not always easy in this world to keep our hearts in the proper attitude and stance.

P.S. Hey, I actually managed to mention Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas...all in one post!


Erin said...

Three holidays in one - not bad! Of course not so hard when they're all getting mushed together nowadays... I went back to the mall today after a day away to find they'd set up Santa's Castle! Santa's Castle! Honestly!

Ahem. Anyway, sounds like a neat celebration you had this evening. We hung around home and had a couple relatives over for pizza and wings and I had Dad scrounge around in the attic for my old Dr Pepper costume, though I only wore it for maybe half an hour.

I'm trying to think of some good thanksgiving books. I've heard Marlo Thomas' collection is good but I haven't read it myself. VeggieTales has a great video called Madame Blueberry on the subject, in which an adorable little (vegetable) girl with glasses who looks rather like I did at that age - only without the buck teeth - sings the following:

"I thank God for this day,
For the sun in the sky,
For my mom and my dad,
For my piece of apple pie!

For our home on the ground,
For His love that's all around,
That's why I say thanks every day!

Because a thankful heart is a happy heart!
I'm glad for what I have,
Thats an easy way to start!

For the love that He shares,
'Cause He listens to my prayers,
That's why I say thanks every day!"

Beth said...

Hee! Santa's Castle the day after Halloween. There's consumerism in action for you! (I guess kids wouldn't want to visit with Tom Turkey...)

The fall festival was fun, though it poured rain which literally dampened our turnout. We were thinking we'd have between 60-80 kids and had more like 40. Still, a lot of fun -- though S. is still buzzing from the sugar rush!

Thanks for the Madame Blueberry song! I've seen that video once, but not for a long time. For some reason, S. has never gotten too "into" Veggie Tales. She likes them, but doesn't usually ask for them (well, except last Christmas when she kept insisting on viewing *The Star of Christmas* again and again and again). I will have to check MB out of the library and see if I can interest her in it during this Thanksgiving season.

Thanks for not minding my "rant" too much, re: thankfulness. :-) I just really felt like emoting about that yesterday!