There was a holiday, once, that was designated for mostly one thing: for people to give thanks out loud for the manifold blessings in their lives. The populace agreed that on that day, the normal busy-ness of life should take a time out, families should gather together to renew their bonds of kinship, good fellows would acknowledge their close friendships, and for at least this one occasion all should reflect on the largess and gifts of life. The day begged nothing from its participants but willing hearts to recognize such abundant bounties and the spirit of thankfulness for all that had been bestowed. It was said that the uniqueness of the day mirrored the originality of the people, a society of grateful and generous souls who seemed to comprehend the good fortunes of their existence and to embrace the modesty by which all such generosities surely are to be received. The day served as a respite, a deep breath within the breathless pace of industry and social intercourse; men and women everywhere lauded this time set aside for a gratitude which they recognized as the debt owed upon their wealth.
Of all places, the initial fractures in this day of thankfulness emerged from sport, that vicarious balm which at times competes with thankfulness for the filling of the spirit. It seduced people into feeling good, not through personal gratitude, but through reverence to what others were achieving. Sport invaded the sanctity of the special day, vying for its time and its adulation. The noise and tensions of competition gradually interrupted the regenerating, languid rest of the holiday. Families seemed to find a balance within the day and there was coexistence, although an uneasy one. But the traditional game featured over many years was soon followed by a second contest, and a third, creating an entire afternoon-into-evening of sport enchantment, sufficient to lure many feasting families away from the quiet bonds of fellowship.
Yet the greatest wound occurred when industry made the decision to separate itself from this day and to abduct its meaning for commercial purpose. Building upon sport’s invasion of the holiday, the commercial moneymakers perceived a profit vacuum. Not content with dominating people’s consciousness immediately after a day of thanks (an ironic contradiction by itself), the merchants mounted a relentless assault upon the clock and calendar. Hour by hour, they crept ever closer to that special day with commercial intrusions. And when the strain against tradition and gratitude could be stemmed no longer, the floodgates of insatiable desires finally broke open in a wild melee of shopping, inundating the people and their culture in unabashed materialism. Contemplation of simple things soon found itself trampled beneath the onrushing hoards of frenzied consumption.
The deterioration of the day managed to sidestep the conscience of the commonwealth, and still more opportunities were invented for acquiring things. In place of a shared gratitude, the people shared space upon sidewalks and parking lots, waiting for the moment when the masses would lunge for their portion of discounted excess, seeking items not needed and spending resources not affordable. Rich family histories yielded to shopping mall disorder. Encroachment upon a single day of leisure multiplied itself to encompass nearly a fortnight’s worth of convulsions.
From afar, people in other places looked upon these events with both envy and sadness. The world recognized the wealth of which no other lands could boast, but they possessed a perspective which allowed clarity of what was being lost. Other affluent nations looked inward, to examine their own souls. Impoverished countries watched outward, in needful disbelief. And some wondered where the slide from humility might finally end….