Thanks, and reasons for giving them

by Bernard Brandt

Norman-Rockwell_Freedom-from-Want (3).jpg

My friend, Gabriel Sanchez, in his inimitable weblog, Opus Publicum, has gone full metal Ebenezer Scrooge over Thanksgiving, here. I think he’s both right, and wrong.

He’s right, of course, in saying that he finds no  reason to celebrate Thanksgiving. He is entitled to that opinion under the U.S. Constitution. And he is right to be sceptical about the way the season has been sold, both as a secular holiday, and as something that Catholics and other Christians have attempted to appropriate.


I must respectfully disagree with Gabriel, as I believe (like Tom Lehrer) that ‘life is like a sewer: what you get out of it depends on what you put into it.’ Besides, as the poets have sung, ‘…for well you know that it’s a fool/who plays it cool/ by making his world a little colder.’

So, I have four bits of advice for those who would like to turn this time into something other than a food fest or a football holiday:

  1. Give thanks anyway. Yeah, I know that we’re still in the middle of the Great Recession. We’re rapidly approaching World War III. There’s a lot of nasty stuff out there which is in the process of manifesting itself.

But Washington instituted the feast at a time when things were going poorly with the nascent nation. Lincoln renewed the feast when we were in the middle of the Civil War. And FDR refurbished the feast when we were in the middle of the Great Depression, and were approaching World War II. So, get over yourselves. You can either be an example to others (like the picture presented at the start of this little screed), or you can be a bunch of whiny little bitches. Take your choice.

2. Tune out the distractions. That’s right. Turn off the TV. Close the laptop. Power down those damned smart phones. Go out instead to neighbors, friends, and family, and listen to them. Well, you can put on things like Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring, or Our Town, or Rodeo, or Antonin Dvorak’s From the New World. But only in the background, and not loud enough to interfere with the conversation. You’ll be glad you did.

3. Act like someone for whom other people would be thankful. Like my neighbor Ernie, who invited me to his barbecue today. Like many of my friends, who invited me to their house for Thanksgiving. Like my choir director and friend, Gabriel Meyer, whose custom it is to have a quiet party on this day for friends who otherwise would have nowhere to go. Like my brother Bill, who has taken it upon himself to host the family’s Thanksgiving dinner, or like my whole family, who either helped him yesterday with the prep work, or who will be helping to cook the food today, or who will be cleaning up the mess afterwards, leaving him and my mother with a clean house afterwards. Thanks, all of you, for everything.

4. Finally, thank God. That’s what the feast was set up for: to thank God for his many blessings upon you and the country. Hey, it would be a change of pace.