Monday, November 26, 2007

What are you thankful for?

wild boar shank at a great Italian restaurant
plenty of Fat Tire Amber Ale
a backyard hot tub
a bike ride with my wife along the Idaho River
going to a pro hockey game
an incredible feast
watching college football
playing Xbox with the men of the family (and the gay cat)
free alcohol on an American domestic flight
time with Jess’ uncle’s family who graciously hosted us for American Thanksgiving
Jess’ parents and grandparents joining the party, driving all the way from CA
and the opportunity to travel to Boise Idaho to enjoy it all!

This was my second thanksgiving in the USA, although since the first was spent riding roller coasters with a bunch of Aussies, Jess’ bridesmaids and her brother the day before I got married 4 years ago, I count this thanksgiving as my first.

I didn’t know what to expect, and am still sketchy on what “Thanksgiving” is beyond the survival of the pilgrims after they survived the Mayflower, and the turkey eating and football watching that is enjoyed to commemorate the pilgrims survival.

“What are you thankful for?”
I had my answer prepared, I thought it was part of the tradition to be asked around the banquet table, but I never was asked, and neither was anyone else.

My impression is, that America doesn’t get much time to ponder or answer this important question anymore. The Boise malls opened at 1am, only 1 hour after the “Thanksgiving” day was over. 80% of the sales that are made during the “Thanksgiving Sales” are made by 10am – I’m not surprised, after nine hours of shopping, I’m sure 80% of the shoppers would be pretty tired and would be thankful for going home to left-over turkey.
Maybe I don’t get it… but with so many things to buy tomorrow, it seems much harder to be thankful for what we have today.

The day before the trip, I had to read and write a response to a fellow students paper, written on the topic of “Measuring Wealth and Poverty”. I wrote my response knowing full well that a glorious week of indulgence and abundance lay ahead and also knowing that the paper I had just read was calling the church back to a “moral vision of poverty as manifested in the Eucharist”. That is, in our poverty, as sinful human beings before a Holy and wonderful God, we are brought to our knees as impoverished people, where being rich or poor (financially and socially) doesn’t matter, as together we receive the body and the blood of the one who became poor so that we could become rich (this is no prosperity gospel). It is when we are on our knees receiving God’s grace together, that we can be gracious towards one another, and lift one another out of our economic and social poverty.

As I emailed the paper off, I couldn’t help but write a few off-the-record words to the author, sharing my experience of reading and responding to his paper in light of the rich week that lay before me. I was very aware of what I didn’t want to give up – my entitlement, my comfort, my security, my opportunities – the trappings of living this-side of any measure of poverty – yet knowing that the “conceptualising and measuring of poverty is a sombre yet important duty. It must start with the sad recognition that the pervasive reality of poverty is a manifestation of sin.” Is it my sinfulness that plays a role in others being poor?

I am not yet ready to deal with the reality of the quote that the paper ended with:
“not to share our wealth with the poor is theft from the poor”. From what I understand, the church fathers, who walked the journey of faith closer to Jesus’ time than us held similar convictions. I do think however, that taking plenty of time to ponder and answer that key question maybe the first step to loving our neighbor who we kneel beside in Eucharistic poverty.
So, what are you thankful for?

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