Making Thanksgiving Compatible with Today
By Steve Hays, TLC publisher
Good news. I don’t plan to tell you it’s that time of year to really appreciate all you have in your life, or suggest you write out a list of what you are thankful about. It’s not that I think appreciation is unimportant. It’s just not the focus here.
I’ve been wondering about something else: how to feel a little more at ease with all the chaos and changes our world is going though. Is it possible to appreciate life or be amazed at life with all of that chaos going on?
Then I discovered there were periods recently when I found myself doing just that—appreciating and not getting too pulled into the so-called good and the bad going on. Humm. Okay, I thought, I’m going to look backwards and see how I got there.
It would be nice to eliminate all the uncomfortableness and contentiousness going on, but when you have a society and government that requires our attention it’s difficult if not impossible to ignore current events. If we do manage to ignore them, we can end up somewhere close to . . . well, where many of us think we are.
So I’m not proposing ignoring things or saying that nothing matters either. It matters to me. As the great journalist Edward R. Murrow put it: “A nation of sheep will beget a government of wolves.”
Some people say that if you don’t vote you don’t have the right to complain. Isn’t it more accurate to say if you don’t participate?
Doesn’t it fit better to say that if we don’t want to end up where we are headed—then we do more than just vote?
While we wait for the next election, the wolves are in the henhouse stealing everything they can.
That’s where I get in trouble—get sucked into the chaos—because I still have this idea that the world is always unfolding as it should be. In good time it will work out and there is, somewhere, an order to everything that I just don’t quite comprehend yet. I’m stubborn and hanging on to that.
Even if I accept the idea that the ways things are unfolding is part of the natural flow of things, being thankful for our current chaotic events is a stretch. Not having it be an upset or linger would be an improvement.
I noticed a few things that I somehow fell into that worked. This was something I really wanted to change, which I’m sure helped me make some progress—I kept at it too. What really worked was when I actually did something. I can’t say what was the most important element—maybe none by itself—so I will hold onto all three of those steps.
Writing my Congressman worked and felt good. Talking with others and discovering alternative ways to look at an issue—and possible solutions—worked too. It was energizing when I discovered what some of my friends were doing and that they were doing something. Engaging worked. Doing anything takes time, of course, but not as much as I thought. It became obvious I could not pay attention to everything that came along so not having enough time fell away as an issue. I had enough time to do something—one thing at least—so didn’t need time for everything.
I did have to look more at when the “bad” news first arrived and how to keep it from spoiling my day. I narrowed that stack of potential upsets by simply asking if it really affected me or not. And was it really as important as someone else was making it appear to be?
Ultimately it seemed maybe some of the news bothered me because I thought I had a better idea of what should be happening. Without giving up the idea of where I wanted to see things going, I instead questioned whether I really knew how we might arrive there—or the best way to get there. That led to giving up the idea that something was good or bad. How can you tell?
Whether it was consistent with where I thought things should be headed or not was something I could not know. With losing that invasive thought I also lost the idea that in order for things to unfold a certain way they needed to happen in a certain order. They weren’t.
Later it felt funny to even think about spending mental energy on thinking how things should occur. Instead I found myself amazed at how it was occuring. I mean, how powerful can a person’s “should” be when applied externally? Seemed a waste.
I remember hearing years ago how we can save ourselves a lot of stress if we give up the idea that we know what other people should do. Never thought to applying that to world watching.
With events and the uncomfortable extremes we hear about these days I still find myself bothered though.
I mean hearing about kids who have been separated from their family and live in filthy jails. What crime deserves that punishment? That’s hard to take especially after hearing some companies are making a lot of money to run those facilities.
The tragedy that fires bring cannot be discounted either. But then the fires have also caused more people to think about how we want to manage our power system. Is it consistent or compatible for a company to support energy efficiency and at the same time make a profit from selling energy? The fires and energy producers unusual new approach has people shifting their ideas on powering themselves.
All of these predictable tragedies are examples of what I mean by the extreme. Maybe we will learn common resources that people rely on need to be protected by the government.
How do shift how we think of those tragedies? I don’t think we can and be human. Sometimes I think though, that it takes the extremes to really show us something need to change. Of course they grow more damaging when we don’t pay attention or ignore them.
When news comes that doesn’t feel good to me I hope that it may be what is needed to shift things—to change people’s minds and how we operate.
Ultimately it seems sometimes all I can do is be thankful for them and appreciate their sacrifice and contribution. Then see if I can do something. When I don’t do anything there’s no relief from that kind of news. I can’t say I’m not part of it. As before, just doing something brings some relief. Figuring out what to do can be the most difficult part.
Do you remember Alvin Lee of Ten Years After. He wrote and sang the song, “I’d Love to Change the World.” The lyrics went on to “but I don’t know what to do.” A later verse added, “so I’ll leave it up to you.”
Good song. I was humming that this past month as I was thinking about these things and rather than affirm I didn’t know what to do, I changed the lyrics a bit, added “yes we do” and “but there’s something we can do.”
But gosh, here we are again at what to do. Thankfully there’s no obvious one “right way.” For now it seems enough to pick something we think important and focus on that, take steps to move it forward—or at least move it a few steps or more down the road.
We’ll know if it’s our thing to do or not soon enough. Something else will be there. I remind myself, I don’t know the next best thing yet, but I will when the time comes.
Looking back on this I think it’s easier for me to live in the chaos and without as much stress. It was about being tired of the way I was reacting, really wanting something different, not knowing what but knowing something would show up-and meanwhile—keep some part that I think important in motion.
Funny how this reminds me of a wonderful Southern lady I was around mostly in Virginia before and during my elementary school years. She and her husband were friends of my parents. We met in Japan where we all lived and they retired close by. She was from Georgia and didn’t talk like any body I had ever heard before. Her son Howard and I were buddies and when we got together she’d look in on us and sometimes drop names of places I’d never heard of, Tarnation, for instance.
More than once—when she told us to do something—we’d ask if she knew that what she was asking us to accomplish was clearly impossible in the time allotted. We didn’t say it quite like that, but I can picture how she often responded to us. She’d look one of us in the eyes, then the other, then smile while and say: “Well bless your hearts. (pause.) Y’all know can’t never could. Now move.”
And we did. She was what you call good people—with “encouragement” skills.