Thanksgiving has passed again, and again I am staring at the scale in disbelief. Traditionally, Thanksgiving is a time for reflection on our “gratitude deficit.” All to often, it has become little more than an excuse for gluttony.
As a young man, it was my practice to fast for the twenty-four hours before the Thanksgiving meal. The stubborn growling in my gut during that day, and as I sat down with my family to a sumptuous spread, was a reminder to myself that at that very moment, all over the world, there were people who were hungry, really hungry. And not the kind of symbolic, self-imposed hunger that ends in a feast. Real, unrelenting, terrifying hunger that towers over all other aspects of life. First to eat. Then to live. Those who live day by day with nourishment in real doubt, don’t have the luxury of . . . well, you name it.
I have to tell you it is embarrassing that we have become such complainers. It seems the more we have, the more we feel entitled to complain about our deprivation. And I am embarrassed at myself most of all. Here are a few of my confessions:
I was incensed that McDonald’s shorted me an order of fries at the drive-through.
I felt sorry for myself that Wichita Falls doesn’t have more appealing restaurant options.
I complained that there are not many gas stations that have 93 octane for my Porsche.
Ok, that does it. I can’t go on. I have become the very thing the youthful version of myself would have loathed. I would have quoted Edmund Burke – “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” And I would have asked the middle-aged me how I could live with my big, beautiful house and my sports car, when real people are really hungry.
The middle-aged me wants to reply with a quote from Winston Churchill – “Any young man who is not a liberal, has no heart. And any old man who is not a conservative, has no head.”
I guess that is supposed to help, because it is clever, and because Churchill said it. But the young me finds it glib and condescending. It is clever to discount the values of liberalism as impractical and idealistic and therefore naturally appealing to the young, while true wisdom (that only comes with age) dictates the superiority of conservative values.
Even the middle-aged me, though, can’t bring myself to justify my excesses by stating that they are signs of God’s blessing. God could certainly find a host of people who deserve it more than I do.
And I also can’t absolve myself by claiming with Billy Joel, “We didn’t start the fire. It was always burning, since the world was turning.” It is not my fault the world is a mess. But does that mean that I have no responsibility to help the world be a little less of a mess?
No, I won’t allow middle-aged me off the hook so easily. I’m working on it, and I’ll let you know what I decide
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