Opinion Columns & Blogs

Whatever the motivation, giving thanks is worthwhile

So, while sick in bed, I listened to a debate between my two opinionated visitors.

Friend 1, let me call her Grace, was adamant, “What’s wrong with being thankful? This is a time for giving thanks.”

Friend 2, pseudonym Vega, was in her element.

“Nothing. You’re getting me wrong. All I’m saying is that it’s easy for people to thank those whom they perceive to be in power and it’s easier for them to ignore the deeds of those who they think are not. For instance, there are people who thank only my husband for gifts and favors that we gave them as a couple. Do they think that by thanking only him they are also thanking me, or are they plainly not thanking me? And take the typical Thanksgiving prayer; instead of thanking each other, people thank their God almighty for friends and family and the food they’re about to binge on.”

“It’s implied, isn’t it, that when you thank God for your friends and family, you are also thanking your friends and family?” Grace is religious and can be quick to put a positive spin on events, people and places.

“Na-ah. You’re thanking your God for giving you friends, family and food. You are thanking your God, but you’re not thanking your friends for deciding to be your friend; you’re not thanking your family for doing whatever it is they did to you. Forget about who brought the food to the table or cooked it; your God gets thanked for that, too. It’s always the high and mighty who get the gratitude while the grunts get ignored for their efforts.”

“Gratitude is good. It’s always good to be thankful. Remember the SWOT analysis – Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats?” Ah, here I see how Grace is good in business.

“Oh, you mean Thanksgiving also stands for Threats? That’s an interesting idea. Yeah, there might be a connection between your idea about threats and being thankful and my point about power and gratitude.” Vega gave the snort-laugh she usually gives when she thinks she’s said something witty.

Grace is not known for her patience. Pausing after every word, she said, “I mean when you give thanks, it means that you have acknowledged your blessings, your strengths! When you take stock of the good that you have, you have taken the first step to reaching your objectives.”

“I agree with your point about taking stock, acknowledging your strengths,” Vega said. Grace visibly relaxed at this, but Vega can be relentless. “You’re sidestepping the issue though. I never said that gratitude is not good. All I’m saying is that we need to scrutinize who gets thanked and what the motivations are for the thanks.”

To avert another jihadic argument (Okay, I’m being dramatic and non-factual in using the word jihadic. Grace is not Muslim, a thousand thanks unto Allah if Allah does exist. She is as devout a Christian as Vega is steadfast about being an atheist. I just was in no mood for a not-so-merry-go-round contest about god and his, her, its or their existence or non-existence.), I rambled about Thanksgiving.

“Did you know that Sikukuu ya mavuno means holiday of harvest in Swahili? My friend Lily said that in some parts of Tanzania, they give to their church things that they made with their own hands for this holiday. It’s pretty cool that they value things that they themselves made, huh?”

Seeing that Vega was barely listening and was ready to launch back to her point, I rushed on about Thanksgiving: “Lily thinks that there’s too much buildup of a holiday around a turkey. Yeah, but some people don’t even care for turkey. Gabby’s family celebrates with enchiladas, moles and ham. I know Agnes does not care for Thanksgiving at all. She said that she did not grow up with it in the Philippines, so why bother?

“Then there’s Millie’s family, who starts the feast by eating 10 olives from the tips of their fingers. Each member of the family has a whole pie and they eat turkey, ambrosia – they put real fruit juices on the salad instead of the usual cream – and whatever else is on the table. Then they nap, eat a little, watch some football, eat again and go through the same cycle until the day is over. How’s that for giving grace by grazing?”

A chuckle from Grace and a snort-laugh from Vega, feasts can be very good incentives for suspending squabbles. I should be well enough by Thursday. Maybe I should have them over for a proper feast so I can thank them for being such dear friends.

Isabel de la Torre of Parkland, an environmentalist and trained but non-practicing lawyer and journalist, is one of five reader columnists whose work appears on this page. Email her at tribune@isabeldelatorre.org.