Reflecting on Thanksgiving

Union County Pulse

The Thanksgiving holiday provides me with four consecutive days off with my family. With this cherished time, we prepare for Thanksgiving, decorate the house for Christmas, and spend some real time together as a family. I revere this time even more because I remember a time when I was not so fortunate. While in college, and for several years after, I worked in retail. Nights, weekends, and holidays are a given for retail workers. While family and friends enjoy gatherings, parties, and holidays, if you work in retail you will miss a lot of these. With tenacity and many years of hard work I was finally able to attain my dream of working in a profession which I liked, that afforded a good living, and which allowed me time with my family.

When I learned this year that retailers were planning on opening on Thanksgiving to kick off the holiday shopping season I was dismayed. The last several years the opening time for “black Friday” has crept backwards from early morning, to midnight, to where it resides now – right smack in the middle of one of our most sacred American holidays. This is all the more irritating since there really are only two or three days a year in which nearly everyone can stop and enjoy time with family. Thanksgiving is a simple and beautiful holiday. Give thanks to God for what you have and enjoy the company of family and friends over an abundant meal. So much of America seems to be slipping away, and what we lose is not being replaced with anything of substance or value. Should we have this one entire day together, or do you really need mom to climb into the minivan at 4 p.m. on Thanksgiving in the hopes that she will snag a fourth television for the house at a $100 savings?

A friend of mine commented to me that he will no longer shop at a large national clothing chain that his niece works for which was open on Thanksgiving. She had to leave dinner at 4 p.m. to get ready for the “big sale” at the store where she works. My mom was a nurse for many years and I understand all too well that health care workers, policemen, and firemen don’t have typical schedules because they are responsible for other people’s lives. In my opinion buying T-shirts, fleeces, and jeans can wait until Friday. There is no emergency there.

Sometimes it hits me that there are interesting parallels in seemingly unrelated and insignificant pockets of daily life. Over the holiday weekend I took my son to see the new Muppet movie. The basic premise of the story is that the Muppets have been forgotten by America and are now past their prime. Now they are on the verge of losing their prized theater where they created entertainment magic and they get together one more time to remind the America what was so special about them. In doing so, they hope to raise enough money to save their theater.

It was a great story and one that if I may say so is a poignant statement on America. Perhaps it seems silly to compare but indulge me. Thanksgiving, like the Muppets, has slowly eroded in importance in America to the point we are at now. We have lost interest in the good wholesome stuff that comprises our American cultural DNA, and filling the void are the hollow less enjoyable ones. Take a look at all the Thanksgiving proclamations issued since George Washington. Thanksgiving was intended as a day to give thanks to God. Lincoln made it a national holiday for the same reasons. These sentiments were echoed by numerous presidents including Grant, Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, and Reagan. Here is where it gets interesting. Read President Obama’s Thanksgiving Proclamation and see how long it takes you to realize it is watered down and has no direct connection to the original purpose of the holiday. Pile on top of it that Thanksgiving is most definitely headed towards becoming coupon and sale day. This demonstrates to me that we are collectively a bit lost when it comes to what our American identity is. Am I the only one bothered by this?

Jason Segal wrote, produced, and starred in the new Muppet movie. Apparently he is a big fan and thought it would be wonderful to bring back something from his childhood that once gave him great joy, but which had been gone for years. For him something was missing. Perhaps it was the magic of a time gone by, a connection to something endearing, or the realization that we define what it is that is important to us as individuals. Whatever it was he did something about it. Together we have that same ability through our actions to keep Thanksgiving what it always was, and what it should be for our future generations.

Gary D’Onofrio

Indian Trail

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