“Rest and be thankful.” -William Wadsworth

What does it mean to be thankful? When I think about the things that I am thankful for, they all seem to revolve around what separates me from others either by individuality or circumstance.

I am thankful that I have enough–enough food, shelter, clothing. I am thankful that I and the people I care about are relatively healthy and safe. I am thankful that we are not spending the holidays in a hospital or a war zone. I am thankful that I am me, with my thoughts and abilities.

My thankfulness is exclusionary. I am happy that I am not others, that I do not have less, that I am not amidst jeopardy. If I found myself in better circumstances, I don’t think my thankfulness would shift much. I don’t imagine it would change much if my life took a moderate turn downward either. I will always be glad that things are no worse than they are, but that seems a rather dull form of thankfulness.

I think a more vibrant version of thankfulness may be hiding in the giving part of Thanksgiving.

We know that giving makes us happier than receiving. We know that money only brings happiness when it buys security and experiences and that even then it only satisfies to a certain point. So why are we reluctant to give?

Mostly because what’s going on in their heads. Most people could be more generous. They think they don’t have the money or the time but they could be more generous. I think people are afraid. They don’t realize that it’s good for them, that it would benefit them and not just other people. They’re afraid that it would be a loss. That if they gave money away or devoted their time, they would be losing something. So part of it is just ignorance, part of it is fear and insecurity.
-Christian Smith, Science of Genorosity

I think we need a new paradigm for thankfulness. We should not be glad for what we have that others do not, but for what we have the ability to share with others.

https://twitter.com/jamesmelville/status/641134292823875584Today is Thanksgiving. I am thankful that I can share knowledge, joy, empathy, compassion, and kindness. I am thankful that I can give both my time and resources to individuals and organizations that are making a positive difference in the world. I am thankful that I have an opportunity to be more generous of spirit and action in the upcoming year.

What will you build–a new table or a new fence?


18 thoughts on ““Rest and be thankful.” -William Wadsworth

  1. I think we need a new paradigm for thankfulness. We should not be glad for what we have that others do not, but for what we have the ability to share with others.

    Yes! A thousand times, Yes! That right there is more powerful, more fulfilling, more true, more actionable and more positive than the collective religious thoughts of every belief system that has ever been rolled into one.

    M, that is the meme Humanism has been looking for.

      1. But it’s true. Allalt recently wrote about a debate he was having with a theist concerning grief. The theist (in possession of such lines as “She’s in a better place,” and “God has a plan”) accused Allalt that atheists’ have a bankrupt language that cannot offer certain condolences in the face of loss. He argued that atheists actually lack clichés, not expression. This was a great observation, and to an extent it is true, but what you’ve done here is articulate something far greater than a simple cliché. It’s a true meme, the meme Dawkin’s first wrote about, which has the power to have structure built around it. Humanism presently lacks that, and this is one of Humanism’s greatest challenges this century.

        1. I think you’re right. We are a species that needs narrative. If we can attach a story to Humanism, even if it doesn’t follow the typical mythological allegories, we are much more likely to engage people.

  2. Welcome back you missed Friend! ❤

    With John, I stand also to salute with my glass of wine, in gratitude for what we, you and so so many have to “give”. Yes indeed, here’s to longer tables and less fences! 🙂

    Hope you and your family have a wonderful Thanks and giving Madalyn!!!

  3. What a wonderfully thoughtful and perceptive take on gratitude. It can perhaps be mistaken for us feeling a sense of relief – that our personal balance sheet has not diminished in some way, or that we’ve escaped some unwelcome fate.

    As you say Madalyn, there’s a self-centric, exclusionary aspect to this shallow form of thankfulness. A deeper expression of gratitude must surely shed this self-centricity and embrace generosity of one kind or another, too.

    “These two people are hard to find in the world. Which two? The one who is first to do a kindness, and the one who is grateful and thankful for a kindness done.” – The Buddha

      1. I must admit that the new fad of YouTubers doing good has me split down the middle. They do such great things and I am so glad that they do it, but it bothers me when they seem more concerned with the camera than the person. I get wanting to show what you are doing in hopes of inspiring others, but it seems disingenuous when the angle is more important than the person.

        That young man did a wonderful thing for a person in need, but in the moment when he should have been connecting, he was glancing at his camera. Maybe he turned it off and gave the person he was helping the attention he deserved. He said he wanted to make it a daily thing, so perhaps I should just shut the hell up. I’m pessimistic tonight.

        1. You could well be right Madalyn, and I previously noted that one of the commenters on YouTube had demanded of the poster that he fulfils his commitment to the veteran and meet him each day as promised. I was unaware that there was any fad for this sort of thing on YouTube, so perhaps your cynicism is perfectly valid. Nonetheless, and in relation to the Buddha’s quote, it is rare to see such sincere expressions of gratitude as that given by the veteran.

    1. What an interesting quote from The Buddha. To do a kindness is rare, but to receive a kindness with thankfulness free from apprehension is rare as well. Thanks for stopping by, Hariod.

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