Don't push me.
Thanksgiving is not even here yet and one local radio station has been running Christmas music like it's full bore Christmas season.
I'm one who gets into the holiday season but no, I refuse to participate in the hastening of the season. Why? Because I know what people have made it. It's not about the holidays but about making a buck. That's why when I hear Sunny 102 playing Mariah Carey singing "All I Want for Christmas" or Paul McCartney singing "Simply Having a Wonderful Christmas Time" I bristle and promptly change the station.
Nope, sorry, I don't "do" Christmas until Thanksgiving has past. You can't trick me into it either by slipping in Christmas music for which I have a seasonal fondness.
It's the same concept for when I roll my eyes when I see Halloween candy stocked in September, boxes of Valentine's chocolates in early January, Easter baskets in February.
I realize what is behind this premature shoving of Christmas down our throats this year: Retailers making a buck. I believe I'll boycott any company that decides to offer Black Friday deals on Thanksgiving out of protest. It'll be my way of saying how dare you.
This country has, in a sense, really perverted the whole intent of Abraham Lincoln in setting aside a day to give thanks. Lincoln proclaimed it a national holiday of "Thanksgiving and praise to our beneficial Father who dwelleth in the Heavens." Lincoln wrote: "The year that is drawing towards its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God ... They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy." Instead of pausing to be thankful, Thanksgiving has been made into "Turkey Day," a time for tryptophan overload over football on TV. That's because we've truly forgotten what it was like in prior generations.
It's hard, in this land of plenty - where nothing is denied us - to imagine how we started out. During the first winter (1620-21) in the New World, the Mayflower colonists were decimated by disease, lack of warm shelter and other living conditions. In fact, 42 of the 102 died the first winter and were buried on Cole's Hill just above Plymouth Rock.
We also forget what it was like when Lincoln lived in the White House and brother was killing brother. We forget that the country was literally tearing itself in two by cannon fire and musket ball and scabbards and by the end of the Civil War, 620,000 Americans died in battle on our own soil. Today that percentage would equate to 6 million Americans, or the entire population of Missouri today.
We forget that the rest of the world is not like us. More than 1.3 billion people live in extreme poverty and each day 22,000 children die for lack of food and shelter. Almost half of the world's population, or 3 billion, live on less than $2.50 a day. If you need more perspective on how wealthy you are as an America, visit www.globalrichlist.com and plug in your annual income. It will shock you to see how wealthy you are on a global scale. This nation has had more than its share of blessing and it's time we all examined what we can and should do to help others.
Psychologists suggest that we will be healthier and better off if we just count our blessings regularly instead of once a year by decree. Robert Emmons, a psychology professor at the University of California at Davis, found that those who adopt an "attitude of gratitude" as a permanent state of mind experience many health benefits. Enemies of feeling thankful are our busy schedules and stress. We don't take the time to smell the roses, or just stop on a whim and look around and gush thanks that we live in a land where we can do virtually anything. I wrote earlier this year about why I liked Huell Howzer's approach to life. He seemed to appreciate any sight, experience, smell or taste as he traveled the highways and byways of California. He gushed with appreciation and awe for the world.
Years ago a friend of mine, Jack Hunter of Hughson, sent me an e-mail that put this concept in practical examples. It was a simple message that really put my mouth in check when I was about to utter some complaint.
His email read:
"I am thankful for:
"... the wife who says it's hot dogs tonight, because she is home with me, and not out with someone else.
"... the husband who is on the sofa being a couch potato, because he is home with me and not out at the bars.
"... the teenager who is complaining about doing dishes because it means she is at home not on the streets.
"... taxes I pay because it means I am employed.
"... the mess to clean after a party because it means I have been surrounded by friends.
"... the shadow that watches me work because it means I am out in the sunshine.
"... the lawn that needs mowing, and windows that need cleaning, because it means I have a home.
"... the complaining I hear about the government because it we have freedom of speech.
"... the parking spot I find at the far end of the parking lot because it means I am capable of walking and I have been blessed with transportation.
"... my heating bill because it means I am warm.
"... the lady behind me in church who sings off key because it means I can hear.
"... the pile of laundry and ironing because it means I have clothes to wear.
"... weariness and aching muscles at the end of the day because it means I have been capable of working hard.
"... And the alarm that goes off in the early morning hours becasue it means I am alive.
"Live well, laugh often, and love with all of your heart!"
The email barely sunk in when I was tempted to grumble about having to retype his email for this column -- because it was all in caps - before stopping to I remember, hey, re-typing means I have all the fingers on both my hands.
Oh if we could all be trained to look for the positive behind every negative.
I realize that someone who may have lost their house may have felt the sting of some elements of Jack's e-mail. But, again, the concept is to find some blessing behind the very thing we're bitter about.
Since Thursday, Nov. 24 follows a tradition set forth by the pilgrims and the Indians, it is fitting to consider the words of a famous Indian leader Tecumseh: "When you rise in the morning, give thanks for the light, for your life, for your strength. Give thanks for your food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason to give thanks, the fault lies in yourself."
How do you feel? Let Jeff know by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org.