Thanksgiving gives us an opportunity to gather with friends and family to celebrate abundance. We eat decadent food and pause for a moment to reflect on the blessings in our lives.
I love, then, that this week’s Spirit magazine highlights Vatican II’s focus on solidarity and the work of Carolyn Woo with Catholic Relief Services. It’s easy to give God a quick nod, to say, “Thank you for this food,” briefly before a meal. It is easy to take one day a year and verbalize what we are thankful for. To have a true spirit of gratitude, however, asks us for so much more. Feeling deeply thankful calls us out into the world to share what we have. Because really, what we have is not ours, it is God’s. Carolyn Woo lives a life of gratitude, working daily for the betterment her neighbors.
I think that gratitude is about dependence. Giving thanks is recognizing that we cannot make it on our own. We need help in this world and in the next. Our society values independence. Yet we are not as independent as we think. We are dependent on the people who grow our food, build our homes, process our water. We have grown dependent on electricity and technology. We need the love and nurturing of our friends and family. We can’t do it on our own, and we don’t have to. Have we grown so dependent, though, that we can’t even see how much we need each other? Do we know how the person growing our food is living? Do we care who assembled our smart phones?
Maybe part of being grateful this Thanksgiving, really truly grateful, means seeing that we are all dependent on each other. We need God, we need animals, we need the earth. Maybe we can be thankful for that dependence and work together toward the common good. Maybe we can recognize how people we are dependent on are treated, and know that our liberation is caught up in theirs.
Photo courtesy of TW Collins via Creative Commons License.