Linda Downing

Being thankful ought to be routine

Most of us have experienced traveling from one place to another only to become aware that we don't remember the trip. If we do not heed the warnings, all of life will be like that. Thanksgiving Day is about going on alert, a heads-up against getting lost in routine.

Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas paraphernalia jumps out together, proclaiming the "holiday" season. If sanity prevailed, we would admit that what is about to happen is anything but joyful. It is an orgy of greed presented in living color and prophesied by Black Friday. In our frenzy to break the everyday, we only lengthen our time on the treadmill.

For three months we run like laboratory rats - trying to do what? Outdistance our disappointments of another year past? Gorge our children with so much stuff they might forget we are not present? Rat-thinking breeds quickly.

British journalist Edward Lucas calls all this the "overrated disturbances of routine."

Unlike Lucas, many of us fail to cherish daily life because we do not sense nor set its object: thankfulness. Routines earn livings, provide education, set standards, and clean up garbage. Routines force us to discover what we are made of.

Unless - they don't. Early 20th century writer Viktor Shklovsky warned that routines can anesthetize us to the sensations of life. Thanksgiving is about stopping long enough to evaluate whether or not we have fallen into the rut of blind ingratitude.

When Anthony Doerr took a timeout to camp on a four-foot-thick sheet of ice in the

Canadian Arctic (November Conde Nast Traveler), he came up with this: "Sometimes you have

to make yourself a stranger to your own life in order to recognize the things you take for granted." He then points to sunsets, hot showers, alphabets, health, family, before he asks: "How had I stopped actually seeing these things?"

The Census Bureau just released new statistics. The November report says that in the richest country in the world, 1 in 6 Americans live in poverty. Florida is fourth among the states with the highest share of poor people. Those of us not facing food or healthcare insecurity, two new standards of measuring poverty, should at least be grateful, and at best, try to help, starting with our own families.

Being thankful ought to be routine. Thanksgiving Day would then simply verify that fact. It doesn't. We have produced rubble and neglected cleaning it up - literally. The rich West has long sent its unfiltered trash to China. Until now, China welcomed, sorted, and recycled it. But, there's junk and there's junk. China says enough. America must process more of its own mess.

A nation's shortcomings mirror the state of its citizens. In a list of 18 heinous sins that signal dangerous times, being unthankful is number seven (2 Timothy 3:2-4). These sins are said to deny the power of God. An August poll by a group called LifeWay found that 51 percent of us do not believe that praying can avert natural disasters. Real thanksgiving cannot take place in that environment. If being thankful is the exception rather than the rule, then conviction to make it our routine this Thanksgiving may be of critical importance.

Finding truth requires the right starting point. That is the quest of this column. If we seek simple truth, we can find it together-side-by-side.

Linda M. Downing is a freelance writer. Contact her at