Wednesday, November 19, 2008

12-Step Thanksgiving Program

An old newsletter offers a great 12-step program of Thanksgiving.

Then Pastor at St Joe, MI, my friend Jim asked “Have you ever tried to imagine what it would be like to live in the belt of poverty, illiteracy, and hunger?” He offered this illuminating but frightening exercise:

1. Take out all the furniture from your home, except a few old blankets, a kitchen table, and one chair.
2. Take away all the clothing, except for the oldest dress or suit for each member of the family, and a shirt or blouse. Leave one pair of shoes for the head of the family.
3. Empty the pantry and refrigerator, except for a small bag of flour, some sugar and salt, a few moldy potatoes for tonight’s supper, a handful of onions, and a dish of dried beans or rice.
4. Dismantle the bathroom, shut off the water, remove the electric wiring.
5. Take away the house itself and move the family into the tool shed.
6. Remove all the other houses in the neighborhood and set up a shantytown.
7. Cancel all subscriptions to newspapers, magazines, and book clubs because you are now illiterate.
8. Leave one small radio for the whole shantytown.
9. Move the nearest clinic or hospital ten miles away and put a midwife in charge.
10. Throw out the bankbooks, stock certificates, pension plans, and insurance policies; leave the family a cash hoard of ten dollars.
11. Give the head of the family three tenant acres to cultivate. On this he can raise $300 in cash crops, of which one-third will go to the landlord and one-tenth to the local money lender.
12. Lop off 25 to 30 years of life expectancy.

Now in the twilight years of our retirement, my wife and I live rather existentially. She has spent most of her lifetime struggling with fragile health, compounded with aging. We now live from month to month, thanks to unseen events that eroded our best planning. The current depression further compounds our insecurity, but these do not rob us of our joy, our peace, or our sense of charity.

When I look at this 12-step program of Thanksgiving, I can only ask what Jim asked when he first wrote: “Now do you still think you are poor?”

One of the better writings in contemporary literature is the Bible. Consider what the Apostle Paul wrote to his struggling Philippian friends (4:4-7, NASV):

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your forbearing spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Make the best of your days by sharing something with someone; then give thanks. As Dr. Keith Huttonlocker once reminded us If we are thankful, it is not because we have a reason to be. It is because we have a mind to be. If reason were enough everyone would be thankful.

Times are tough, true enough; but tough times call for fortitude. Now is the time for all of us to express our attitude of gratitude (bold print for emphasis).

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