This Thursday in the U.S. over 45 million turkeys will give up the gobble and contribute 525 million pounds of meat in our annual celebration of gratitude, grid-iron and gravy boats.
Before you put on your elastic eating pants and start patting pilgrims on the back, consider Abraham Lincoln. Not only did the 16th U.S. president give us the Emancipation Proclamation, a national banking system and an affinity for top hats, in 1863 he also gave us the last Thursday in November off “as a day for national thanksgiving and prayer.”
He did this as a morale booster for the Union army and health of the nation, not to glorify the fables fed to us in elementary school. Making the fourth Thursday in November a federal holiday also created one of the most wasted work weeks of the year. According to John Brown of The Chicago Tribune, it’s referred to as ‘The Lost Week’ in business circles. As in lost productivity, lost revenue and lost work. But not all is lost.
Apparently our increased level of slackerdom this week is a health indicator of the American economy. If you’re spending more time on Priceline than on your status reports today, it might mean we feel better about our personal finances. The Lost Week might end in a better Black Friday. We’ll fly to grandma’s house, overeat, over-imbibe, wake up at dawn to get the best holiday deals, revert back to our sibling rivalry roles, and dive into that classic American family dysfunction in ways we haven’t seen since Dot Com. Let’s hope all this laptop laziness means we have the cash for couples counseling after a week with the in-laws.
Thanksgiving isn’t a day off or paid holiday for everyone (me included). Moreover, it’s a day that millions more are acutely reminded of their deprivation and poverty. For many American Indians, Thanksgiving is a day of mourning; a symbol of displacement from their lands and deaths from wars and disease that came in the wake of the Pilgrims.
Most Americans think of the day after Thanksgiving as Black Friday, the biggest shopping day of the year and beginning of the holiday retail frenzy. It’s also National American Heritage Day, signed into law last month by President Obama as a joint House and Senate Resolution, “to honor the achievements and contributions of Native Americans to the United States.”
In all honesty, the actual Thanksgiving day doesn’t mean much to me. I’m not religious and shopping malls make me feel like my soul is decaying from the inside out. This year I moved across country when business went the way of the dinosaur and watched my retirement and life savings hit the skids. It’s not a unique story but I learned a lot about living with little and I’m grateful for what’s left. I threw out a whole house full of clutter I carried around in cardboard boxes for 17 years. I packed the remainder into a pickup with my dog and headed 3,000 miles West. I traded my cube and commute for the ability to paddle into the Pacific Ocean everyday.
I was anchored down from accumulating the wrong kind of abundance. I definitely can’t afford the ‘things’ I could this time last Thanksgiving, but I don’t want ‘things.’ I want experiences. I don’t want to lose focus on maintaining the freedom to put one foot in front of the other in pursuit of my passions. I’m thankful for the opportunity to even try. The Lost Week might look bleak at first but it can always be an indicator of the best to come.
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