A Way to Enjoy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving 2011

I love Thanksgiving. I love the Food. I remember as a child the carving the kishka, and the maztah balls with marshmallows. The usual. Okay, not really, but we always have traditional foods and they are great.

I love the football games. Most of them. Some years more than others. I really hope Thursday at least leaves Lions fans with some dignity.

The best part of Thanksgiving of course is time with friends and family. Most families go around the table and talk about what they are thankful for. Good thing to do. It is important to remember how much people do for us, and how many good things there are in our lives, even when things are challenging.

This is also the time people think about how much others were not thankful for them and what they did. They did something for others, but do not feel properly appreciated. There can be lingering resentments.

There might be a number of reasons you were not thanked.

1-They did not know what you did for them.

2-What you did was not really as great as what you thought you did, or that they really did not want you did, or that they really would have been happier if you did not do that thing. (The end of that idea was contributed by my wife Ruth. One reason you should be thankful to her is that she has prevented a lot of really bad sermons.)

3-They did thank you, but you did not think it was sufficient, or you were not really paying attention.

4-They appreciated it, but did not know how to express it properly. A lot of our loved ones mean well, but it does not always come out right.

Jewish tradition has an interesting approach that I am beginning to understand.
There is a phrase in our ethical literature that says, “The reward of a mitzvah (a kind and compassionate act) is an opportunity to do another mitzvah.

When you do an act of kindness for someone else, your reward is another opportunity to do another act of kindness. No promise of material prosperity or spiritual salvation in this world or the next. No promise of thanks. Just another opportunity to help others.
Tough sell. Hard to advertise in one sentence. Live Jewishly, work hard for others, and you will get a chance to do more work.

I believe this approach contains a key to happiness
The reward of doing this act of kindness is recognizing that it is a worthy thing to do, that we are living our lives in a meaningful way, and that what we do matters.

There will always be these opportunities. We never have to wonder what to do with our lives. Every moment is an opportunity to help, no matter what it is we do.

We can cherish the gratitude. I am not that modest. I do enjoy recognition as much as anyone else. The difference with this approach is that we no longer need the recognition.

I would add that if our efforts are constantly being ignored or diminished, it is okay to find others to share the good things in your life. Don’t be a victim.

This thanksgiving ask if what we are doing for others is what they really need.

If it is, be thankful you can help. That is the best reward we can ever have.

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