Slow down, enjoy holidays

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 17, 2010

In a little more than a week, it will be Thanksgiving Day. If you listen to the commercials and the stuff in the media, the focus seems less on a holiday for giving thanks and more on early Christmas shopping and getting ready for the partying that goes with big college football games.

Several chain stores are open Thanksgiving so shoppers get a jump on Black Friday specials. Now, I am not condemning those stores and their shoppers or preaching about what is or is not appropriate on this day. And as for football, I am not about to say anything negative about fans’ love for their teams and their anticipation/excitement about a game.

However, it occurred to me that maybe there is something important we miss by not giving ourselves the gift of celebrating what this day is designated to celebrate. Thanksgiving offers us an invitation to stop in the midst of the busyness of life and appreciate. How often do we do that simple thing?

Why does that matter? Perhaps, it matters because of what it does for our spirits. Taking time to focus on the good things changes us in ways we may not understand on a surface level.

I read an article recently that suggested gratitude has a way of slowing us down, softening us and opening our hearts. It helps us sleep better, makes us more optimistic and less stressed. All of that certainly seems positive to me.

So I’ve decided to commit to a real celebration of Thanksgiving this year, one that involves more than turkey and pumpkin pie, and I invite everyone to join me. We have about a week to get ourselves into the holiday spirit so here is what I’m thinking.

At least once a day, I plan to stop in the midst of whatever I am doing and find something for which I am thankful. Maybe it is that I have the ability to wash a dish or sweep the floor, or that I have food in my cabinet and a roof over my head. When I hear a commercial about shopping or college football, I can appreciate that I have a television, and eyes and ears to see and to hear it.

And if nothing else comes to mind, I’ll be thankful for the breath I’m breathing. I have this crazy idea that a bunch of people expressing thankfulness everyday for a week might create a powerful positive force, a mighty, unstoppable wave of gratitude.

If it does nothing else, it will probably improve our moods because I think it is difficult to be thankful and grouchy at the same time.

I will also commit to not judging the rightness or wrongness of how anyone spends Thanksgiving Day. I will be happy for those who enjoy shopping. I will celebrate the joy some find in focusing on the big game. I will be glad for the traditional ways folks spend the day.

I will say thank you for all the possibilities that exist and for the freedom we have to choose our own way. And, maybe that is exactly what our forefathers had in mind when they decided to single out a day of thanksgiving. They gave us the holiday as a reminder that we have the great blessing of the freedom of choice.

Who knows if we live for a week spending even a tiny bit of the day in appreciation mode, we might decide we like the experience and extend the practice beyond one designated day a year.

Wow, if that happens imagine the celebration on Thanksgiving Day 2011.