Who Stole Thanksgiving?

By Karen S. Lynch


While everyone knows the Dr. Seuss story, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” I have a question of my own – who stole Thanksgiving? I know what you are thinking – we still celebrate Thanksgiving Day – but do we remember the true purpose of this holiday? Just as greed has taken the focus of Christ out of Christmas, it seems the sin of gluttony has overtaken the origins of giving thanks for the successful harvest celebrated by our colony settlers.

While the fumes of fresh turkey and dressing, mixed with spices and pumpkin pie still linger in the air, we start planning our holiday shopping strategy. After a long, post-meal nap, shoppers get up in the early morning hours to line up for that “door-buster” holiday gift specials.

Fighting off the tryptophan from all that turkey we ate just hours before, it takes some cool fall air and frozen toes to stay awake long enough to flatten the poor sucker who opens the doors for all those eager bargain hunters. Crazed shoppers likely get the most exercise they have had all year – running with chattering-wheeled shopping carts down the electronic and toy aisles in pursuit of the limited number of the hottest item of the year.

Thanksgiving seems to have become nothing more than a day to “fuel up” in preparation for a long day of shopping because we may not have time to stop and eat. Besides, there is plenty of time for leftovers when we get home with the family vehicle crammed full of all those bargains – after we drove around the parking lot a half hour and fighting through huge crowds at the register.

Christmas seems to come earlier every year. “Black Friday” – the day after Thanksgiving – is the term used for the day retail stores hope holiday gift sales will place their cash registers back into positive profits for the year.

Each year, retail establishments push the first holiday shopping day forward hoping to increase the odds of making their sales goals for the year. (I know this must be a consumer-targeted conspiracy to get us to buy at a particular store first and shop longer in the season.) While we are now accustomed to seeing gifts and decorations going up before Thanksgiving, I draw the line when I start seeing Halloween decorations on one side of the aisle and Christmas decorations on the opposing aisle. The decorated trees not only fill the store aisles, many of us now have our own tree decorated on Thanksgiving Day – outdoor Christmas lights lit in all their glory.

In this tough economy, it may be hard to find reasons to be thankful this year. My own family saw several members lose jobs when Maytag moved to Mexico. When Gale Products closed their doors in 1983 – moving good-paying jobs out of state, my brother also lost his factory job. He started his own business, Carr St. Custom – struggling for years to build it into a success. Cars and choppers he restored or painted won many prestigious awards and national recognition. Many of his masterful projects featured in popular magazines and graced the covers of seven top publications.

With our economy is in intensive care, many families are living with a lot of financial uncertainty. While my own basement leaks during a heavy rain, at least my home did not flood like those in Hurricane Katrina. My roof has a small leak also, but I am thankful it did not blow away in a hurricane or destroyed by a wildfire, fanned by the Santa Anna winds in California. While finances are very tight on a small pension, at least I own a home that is not facing a foreclosure.

My entire family struggles like so many others to make a living – my sister at a job that pays one-third what she earned at Maytag. I am still trying to find work I can perform with a number of physical ailments and a disability. (I am still trying to become a journalist and photographer.) Despite all my own struggles, I have many reasons to feel especially blessed this year.

The greatest challenge my own family faced this year was not finding a job or better pay. In October of 2007, my brother was diagnosed with a very rare cancer. After a difficult surgery to remove an eight-pound tumor, his left kidney and spleen, we learned the difficult journey had only begun. After my brother lost another good job the same day of his release from St. Francis hospital, complications required multiple hospitalizations and a second corrective surgery on his bladder. Months of chemo followed with the expected side effects and a severe reaction and seizures during what became his final treatment.

His family had no insurance, placing a financial burden on them. Family and many good friends held a very successful fundraiser that helped pay a few of the huge medical bills. Last year our family did not know if my brother would still be with us this year. With no signs of his cancer remaining, we have many reasons to be thankful this year. In fact, we have already received out Christmas presents as well – the best gift anyone could ever hope to receive – life! We all have many reasons to be thankful for the best Thanksgiving ever.


Thanksgiving, 2008