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By Brent Davis
Is it possible to be thankful and guarded at the same time? In today's multi-tasking society I suppose it is possible, but is it practical? Wise? Healthful? In my opinion, the answer to each is a resounding no.
Being thankful requires an open-heart and a grateful perspective, neither of which can be maintained under the strain of negativity.
Being thankful requires the ability and desire to see the good in all things, even when the temptation to focus on the evil is compelling and familiar.
It takes a strong leap of faith to maintain a thankful attitude. It requires a greater commitment of personal energy to look for that which we are not trained as a society to see as opposed to the easy evil. It takes no effort at all to condemn, denigrate or demean. All it takes is an open mouth, a wayward tongue and a steady stream of exhaled breath.
A grateful attitude requires exactly the opposite. A closed mouth. A silent tongue. And, most importantly, a deep breath. Each of these three attributes creates a calm nature and opens eyes that were once squinted and clinched in a doubting stare.
Therein lies the challenge.
How do we find this peace-of-mind in a chaotic world focused on crime, violence and dirty politics? The answer is simpler than one might think, but inherently harder to do than say. The answer is one that requires a change in mindset. A paradigm shift.
The answer isâ€¦look for it. Seek the everyday simple pleasures we take for granted or, even worse, never noticed before. Look for a four-leaf clover without letting the knowledge of the odds of finding one are one-million to one. The odds of finding two at the same time are even greater at ten-billion to one, but should that stop you from searching? No. Imagine the joy of being able to hold something that the odds so strongly imply could never happen. Embrace it. Find it. Hold it forever.
For example, I was watching a television program the other night. It was Duck Dynasty. I had seen commercials for this program and had, I must admit, formed a pre-conceived notion about the show. I decided to watch the show and immediately it has become one of my favorites. The show centers on a family in West Monroe, Lousiana that builds duck calls. Each male member of the family has a beard to rival Grizzly Adams and claims without hesitation or lack of pride in being a redneck. The extended family of grandchildren, cousins and employees of the business are featured in each show.
Each show follows the operations of the business, the family and their everyday life. A cynic may watch the show and see the foolish behavior of backward people. However, those who watch with a wider view will see what we all want, but often times fall short of obtaining. Happiness.
In a recent episode, Jace, on of the family, spoke of the joy of fresh, hot donuts. In another episode, the virtue of a snow cone on a hot summer day was a focus. However, despite the disagreements and problems that come up for the family in each show, the last few minutes are always the same.
The full extended family gathers around the dinner table at the patriarchs home. They prepare their own food. They bow their heads and give thanks to God for each other and the food before them. They talk about the power of their family to overcome the problems of the day, to heal the disagreements that arise among them and to keep them grounded in the future.
This is what I get from the show. A cynic will most likely receive a different message.
When I was growing up, one of my parents' favorite television shows was "The Waltons". We never missed it. My mother would tell us of how similar her upbringing was compared to Mary Ellen and Elizabeth. The family gathered around the kitchen table, said grace and thanked God for the many blessings of the day. My father always said I reminded him of John Boy, a statement I didn't much care for at the time. Any male with "boy" attached at the end of his name was sure not to be comfortable with such foolishness. However, as I watched the show then, and at times now, I take comfort in the things Dad saw.
So, whether you are from the "Duck Dynasty" fan base or the old-timers of "The Waltons", a common theme runs across both generations. Appreciate what you have. Be thankful for those around you. Seek the simple pleasures in life. As you gather with your family and loved ones on Thanksgiving next week, look around and see if there is a Jace or John Boy in the crowd. I bet you will find at least one.
It will make you happy, happy, happy.
And that's a fact, Jack!