Tag Archives: holiday

Thankful People, And The Other 364 Days.

By: Chris Warren

I must confess: I’m not into Thanksgiving, as in the holiday. It’s always great to have a huge meal and visit with nice people, but in my family we don’t need a special time for that. The day founded by early American colonists as a has evolved into “Christmas Lite,” and I’m not taking the thankful bait. It’s now officially a hollow, feel good celebration when for one day everyone raises their glass to the idea of gratitude but does not think much of it the rest of the year.

Thankful People have two common traits: First, they are never superficially grateful. They don’t post trite memes on Facebook and call it good enough or say “thank you” to strangers as a matter of courtesy more than true feeling. They will bring cookies to the neighbor who shoveled their snow without being asked, or send an email to praise the flight attendant who went very far out of their way to assist an elderly passenger in a wheelchair (both of these examples actually happened). If the bulk of your appreciation involves sitting around a table once a year talking about how thankful you are, then all you are really doing is making yourself feel good. Thankful People don’t just say they are thankful. Thankful People know it’s not about them. They act thankful. They make others feel valued, all the time.

Second, Thankful People cheerfully do things for others and are grateful for the chance to be of service. That sounds counterintuitive: Shouldn’t the one who hands out the blessing be the recipient of thanks? Yes, but appreciation is never a one way street. Every kind act originates from someone’s desire to make the world a little better. Knowing they have accomplished their goal is in itself a reason to be thankful. The Thankful Person puts the “giving” in Thanksgiving.

I certainly don’t have a problem with the concept of being thankful, or for that matter a day to commemorate it. Yet I can’t help but notice that Thanksgiving, the holiday, has lost its real meaning the same way hardly anyone thinks about why we have a Memorial Day or Labor Day or any other fill-in-the-blank-Day. It’s become another easy excuse to stuff our faces and watch sports on TV.

The fact that there is a need for a Thanksgiving is evidence that we don’t have enough of it. Why and how have we reached a point where gratitude requires its own special day? Thankful People are already living it, and everyone else won’t get the message anyway. What are they doing the other 364 days of the year? If you feel different on Thanksgiving than you do every other day, then you are doing something wrong.

New Year’s Resolutions: As Useful As Last Year’s Calendar.

Editor’s note: January 1, 2015 is the first anniversary of Twenty First Summer! To celebrate, I am reposting my very first article, with a few small edits and changes. Thanks to everyone who has visited my blog and given me a reason to keep doing this. I’m very grateful for the support and look forward to another year of sharing my thoughts and insights. Happy New Year…and thank you sooooo much! 

by: Chris Warren

I sometimes wonder how long ago New Year resolutions came into being. I’m sure some sociologist has done the research. The backstory may be hard to trace but it’s not hard to figure out why anyone would make a resolution.

A little digging around produces anecdotal evidence of one glaring point: Those who make New Year resolutions have no sincere intention of keeping them. And those who are motivated to improve their lives for real don’t need to make dramatic declarations because they are already taking positive action, quietly, every day, without vainly calling attention to their goals.

New Year resolutions usually start getting tossed around at Thanksgiving, when the end of the year is near and self deprecation is trendy. After all, no one ever stood up at a Memorial Day picnic and said, “This year I resolve to ____.”  Resolutions are as much about renewing vows that were never honest in the first place as they are about whitewashing a year of wasted opportunities.

Making promises for what will be accomplished later makes it easier to feel better about the failures of the past. It’s an adult variation on the gung-ho attitude a poor student has on the first day of school after returning from Christmas break: “Yeh, I know I really sucked last semester,” they will sheepishly admit. The hollow pledge immediately follows: “But now I’m going to step it up and pull good grades!”  For them, the scoreboard is reset to zero. Past screw ups don’t count, at least not for the short term. Yes, I’ve been “that student”. More than once. Those making New Year’s resolutions, like born-again scholars, are more likely to be concerned about feeling better than doing better.

It appears that feeling good has become the the goal rather than the reward for achieving a goal. Society schmoozes underperformers so their precious self esteem is not hurt. Everyone gets a trophy. In cultures where an expectation of success is rigorously enforced, failure is a huge embarrassment. The student and the CEO are both motivated to do better because the last thing they want is to be humiliated before others.

Shame is a strong incentive to excel, unless of course you live in a world where being protected from every little disappointment is almost a religion. One of the big differences between a high achiever and a low achiever is that the high achiever knows they will be called out for their screw ups; self esteem is an aside. Our takeaway: The good deed should come before the good feeling. Too many want to get all warm ‘n’ fuzzy on the installment plan. And they almost never pay off the bill.

That circles us back to why New Year resolutions are ridiculous: If someone is sincere about making a big change in their life, why do they need a special day of the year to do it? Isn’t just as easy (or hard) to lose weight, go back to school, quit smoking, take that dream vacation, whatever, on any other day as it is on January 1? For the truly resolved, no calendar is needed. For the pretenders, a lazy excuse is never more than twelve months away.

We Can’t Know What Christmas Is Unless We Also Know What It Isn’t.

By: Chris Warren

Ahhh yes it’s “the most wonderful time of the year” (or whatever cliché pleases you). The complaints are also clichés, albeit true ones: Christmas is rightfully derided as having been turned into a celebration of materialism and faux congeniality. ‘Tis the season for pining about what Christmas really means. We can also learn a lot from what it doesn’t mean.

Christmas is not about being seasonally nice. If you can smile and wave to that crabby neighbor on December 25, why is it so hard to do any other day? Or every day? Does it feel funny going back to being a stand-offish jerk on December 26?  I have a coworker who is always doing small favors for everyone, even people who are not all that kind to him in return. He does not wait for a special day, or be helpful only to those who are helpful to him. He treats others with class, every person, every day. That is the true meaning of Christmas.

Christmas is not about being a part time philanthropist. People feel inclined to leave large tips or donate to charity at Christmas. That’s nice and should not be discouraged, but the wait staff at your favorite burger place needs to make money in July, too. And the burdens carried by social service groups still have to be funded in the off season. It does not help a poor man to buy him an expensive multi-course steak & seafood dinner once a year and let him starve the rest of the time. I know a guy with a very middle class income who gives to several charities each month. The donations are not large, but he always comes through with something. He does it so the poor man gets a modest but respectful meal every day. That is the true meaning of Christmas.

Christmas is not about Christ. Let’s get something out of the way: I don’t say that to be politically correct. It’s well established that Twenty First Summer does not concern itself with making sure no one’s precious sensibilities are offended. But the reality is that for many, perhaps most, Christmas is not a religious holiday even as they celebrate it anyway. Christians should seize this opportunity to share their faith because it may be the only time of the year when nonbelievers are open to hearing God’s Word. It’s important for Christians to demonstrate their faith all the time, but Christmas is prime “hunting season.”

An acquaintance of mine is very involved in his church and he invites everyone he knows to their Christmas pageant. It’s part Broadway musical, part worship service. The place is always packed, and many of those present would never consider going to church under any other circumstances, much less a very conservative Baptist church. No one really knows how many lives are changed for the better as a result of attending this one event, but the church got it right: You first have to get their attention if there is any hope at all of winning their hearts. By the way, this particular church reaches out to to the community all year long with assistance and events specifically aimed at non-members. That is the true meaning of Christmas.

Even though a lot of goodwill does come out of Christmas, the holiday has become too much about one day. The higher calling of being concerned for others during the rest of the year is usually overlooked. Or worse, everyone thinks they can be kind to their fellow man in December and they have done their duty until next year. You can tell everything about a person’s understanding of the meaning of the season by what they do (or don’t do) in February and July and October. Those who respond to that call long after the sales are over and the decorations are put away don’t merely know the true meaning of Christmas, they are the true meaning of Christmas in the spirit Christ Himself expects all of us to be.

Twenty First Summer wishes everyone a merry and blessed Christmas.

Peace be with you!