Thankful Yesterday, Gluttony Today

Look at this horror in Georgia!

I begin to wonder if Thanksgiving has turned into “Gluttony Day”? We sit around our tables eating large amounts of food, often with little or no regard for the poor. Then fast forward to just a few HOURS now after the meal is over and we find a scene like the one above.

Perhaps it’s time for us Catholics to make a stand against what Thanksgiving is turning into? Perhaps, just maybe it’s time for all Catholics to get together on Thanksgiving to participate in service projects throughout the day with the poorest of the poor?

Thanksgiving contains two words “Thanks” and “give” and instead we’ve turned it into a “grab” and “get”. Grab that last turkey leg and then last iPod touch. How many in the world would be happy for just a smidge of our wealth. I’ve seen poverty up close when I saw people living in the GARBAGE dump in Nicaragua.

What part of thankfulness have we forgotten?

Gratitude is at the heart of the Christian message? I’ve learned a lot about gratitude this year. My wife is healthy and I love my job. I’ve helped to rebuild a neighborhood and to serve students who come from lands where they have very little indeed. I’ve dumped cable and I don’t miss it. And the highlight of my day is often exercise, the loyalty of a great dog or the love of an amazing women.

And they don’t cost me a dime. (Well, save a gym membership!).

A few weeks back I was overwhelmed by our students’ response to our community service project to plant trees in our local neighborhood. We had more people than we anticipated. Most of the students were eager to help and pitch in where they could. But one student who was required to do the service for a class said “Well, let’s get this over with…”

I wonder what she went to do immediately afterwards?

We spend our time lavishly and long for recreation activities that leave us often flat. When students return from a week of alternative break they often wonder how come their world isn’t “less about them”?

I asked my UB 101 class (an introductory class for Freshman students) what they thought Thanksgiving would be like if they were headed home for the first time? Many admitted that they wondered about how their parents would react to their return home. One quipped, “They’re going to ask me if I’ve spent more days sober or drunk?” Another said, “I thought it would be great to spend the night in my own bed again, but my room is being used for storage.”

But it was my student assistant who had the comment that’s stayed with me. She’s a sophomore and she stated that last year “My mother just let me do whatever I wanted to.”

Helicopter parenting has become more about placating even their adult children instead of challenging them. While they might be overwhelmed by seeing their child back home, shouldn’t there also be family expectations to pitch in with the family meal? Shouldn’t there be time set apart to catch up and to make plans for the future and to hear what struggles and challenges exist for both students making their way through freshman year and parent’s dealing with the loss that comes with the empty nest?

Or is it all just a grab and get for attention and selfishness?

Are we truly thankful? We woke up this morning and many did not. We have roofs over our heads and many do not. We’re eating leftovers while many don’t get even one full meal a day.

I miss my own family–my parents and sister—as Thanksgiving is the one holiday that we decide not to travel home for. We’ve even taken to spending an early Christmas with both families because the price of airfare and gasoline has skyrocketed and it’s a bit cheaper to fly then than it is closer to the 25th. I think even the corporate world has made us shift our values and necessitate us moving more towards individualism and less towards family. Ikea even reports that the entertainment system sells much more readily in the United States than the kitchen table does (I sheepishly admit that my TV and Roku player take up more room than my tiny kitchen table).

A final note, the stress of the holidays often has us avoiding one another and trying not to step on too many toes. Perhaps it’s time to eschew that attitude and express ourselves openly–even if it leads to an argument? Do we all just pretend to like each other because we’re family–and then present our false selves for a photo op?

God calls all of us to become who we are–in all of our flawed humanity. Maybe it’s time to remember that and be grateful for who God has made us to become instead of grabbing for what we are not?

As our prayer today, let’s close with a great song that our evangelical brothers and sisters sing often.

And Father Greg Boyle says it all much better than I ever could:

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