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Thanksgiving - Where are You?

Has Thanksgiving been lost? Lost to cheap electronics, half-price clothing deals, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday? After passing this weekend finding infinitely more references in the press to the above as well as the debates and conundrums regarding the mid-night openings, it became apparent that Thanksgiving was indeed lost. It is lost in every respect, figuratively and literally. The question now being posed is: Should it be found, and why should today’s public even care?

First, Thanksgiving is important as a holiday. It’s important historically speaking as an element in the founding of our country. It is also important as it leads into the whole season of giving. But most importantly, it is a day to reflect on what we have to be thankful for. And for this reason, it should not be forgotten, or relegated to the status of “Black Friday Eve.”

For myself, Thanksgiving brings a host a good memories and warm feelings. In anticipation for the holiday, I love perusing my recipe collections from past years or trying the latest Emeril or Rachel Ray recipe for that perfect turkey, dressing and green bean casserole combination. I love the sense of spirited competition with my sisters-in-laws for the honors for best pie (the winner is determined by whose pie plate is emptied first). I love watching the first holiday movie with the family, and even the tradition of going around the table professing that for which we are grateful.

However, so many accounts in the news of this past weekend emphasized much more of the shopping deals to be had (from mid-night to 6:00 and 6:00 to noon and noon to 4:00 and 4:00 to closing . . .), or alternatively reports of fisticuff assaults on the Walmart sales floor over the latest 46” television.

Additionally, in my own post-Thanksgiving forays into the shopping melee, all of the conversations I overheard were from workers lamenting their lost holiday due to extended hours. Even the shoppers, while certainly relishing some of their hard-found deals, were tired, cranky and not very thankful since most of their promised bargains were sold out to the first 35 customers of the night.

So it seems that not only was Thanksgiving Day itself lost this year but also lost was its spirit. Those grateful attitudes and lazy naps on the living room couch after a hefty infusion of tryptophan with family and friends have been supplanted with queuing irritably for hours on a cold sidewalk with strangers, subsisting on caffeine and self-inflicted frustration.

Is it worth returning to the Thanksgivings of lore? Sally Brown from Peanuts would argue, “What do I have to be thankful for? All it does is make more work for us.” Well, a spirit of thankfulness is a lot of work. Sometimes it takes effort to find what to be thankful for, whether it be those contentious family members, horrible bosses and dead-end jobs.

In Judeo-Christian culture there is a lot to be said for thankfulness. The Bible dedicates basically an entire book to thankfulness, the Psalms. David wrote many of the Psalms while on the run for his life from either King Saul or his own son Absalom. Others Psalms were written following David’s affair with Bathsheba, and still others after the death of his first-born son. One could say David had little for which to be grateful, yet he was both grateful and content.

But thankfulness is not simply a Christian notion. Author John Krahlik in his book 365 Thank You’s alleges that thankfulness is the very simple means to a happy and fulfilled life. The author, at age 53, found his life at a terrible, frightening low. His small law firm was failing and he was struggling through a painful second divorce. He was estranged from two children and at risk of losing custody of a third.

Then, during a desperate walk in the hills on New Year’s Day, Krahlik was struck by the belief that his life might become at least tolerable if, instead of focusing on what he didn’t have, he could find some way to be grateful for what he had. He began by writing a thank you note to some memorable person in his life everyday for the next 365 days, and his act of thankfulness brought about a gratefulness into his life that returned to him meaning, hope and contentment.

To me, Krahlik’s experience brought to mind the hundreds of clients in this practice, who may feel they have nothing for which to be grateful. There is a spouse who doesn’t care, a child who has been forgotten, and angry bitter feelings that are neither addressed or mitigated. Most clients in family law cases feel they have very little for which to be grateful. But that is simply not the case.

Certainly, today’s client cannot purport to have more difficulties that those experienced by the Biblical David or John Krahlik. But what both David and Krahlik found was gratefulness and contentedness despite the sea of despair whirling around them. From my sixteen years of experience in Albuquerque family law, I have seen many reactions to difficult divorces, from despair and depression to anger and bitterness. Peace and justice and not always forthcoming. However, once those clients that eventually let go of the anger, the despair and the bitterness and find a spirit of acceptance, if not outright contentedness, in this situation can their lives finally begin to heal.

So what is the answer? One answer is to always find a good lawyer to protect your legal interests. (Remember, this is still principally a legal blog). But the answer may also lie in fostering a spirit of contentedness and gratefulness for that which we have, and not resentment for what we have lost. That is why Thanksgiving matters and why it should not be lost to today’s mentality of consumerism.

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