It's the day before Thanksgiving here in the US. Over the course of the years the Wednesday before Thanksgiving has become as much of a "surrogate" holiday as Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve, a day of grocery shopping, pie making, and for many, travelling.
The month before Thanksgiving, starting November 1st, has become a new holiday season. Many stores clear out the Halloween costumes and candy and put out the garland and tree decorations, but more than that, in our web-connected world, it's become it's own season. A season of thankfulness.
Many of my online friends played The Thankful Game this month. The Thankful game is where you use your blog or Facebook status or Twitter update to, once a day, tell something you are thankful for. The idea is that at the beginning of the game it's really easy, but as the days go on you are more and more challenged to think of things to be thankful fore and become more and more appreciative of the people and things and circumstances in your life.
I hate that game. I never play.
Why? Well, for one, it's kind of annoying. The first few days are always the same "my friends", "my family", "my job", "my house", "my dog"... on and on and on. Now don't get me wrong, those are great and fabulous things to have in your life and you should absolutely be thankful for them. But when 20 people on facebook are playing The Thankful Game and post their updates at about the same time every day and they all say pretty much the same thing ever single flipping day, it's kind of annoying. Really annoying. In fact I would say fingernails on a chalkboard annoying.
Another reason I don't play is, when it comes to Facebook, some people always need to comment on the things you say and make it about them. For example, if I post something like "I am really thankful that my chronic migraine is only at about 3 on the pain scale today instead of the usual 7" I get comments back like: "Oh I know just how you feel. Mine is at an 11 today when it's usually 17 and therefore much worse than yours and you should totally be grateful that your pain is less than mine and that you're able to talk about it because I'm on so much pain I can't move my hands an am typing with my left little toe because it's the only thing that hurts less than a 12." Ok, maybe not exactly that, but you get the idea. It has to be all about them and not just "hey that's great" or "I'm glad for you".
But overall the main reason I don't play is that The Thankful Game really misses the point. Absolutely I think that Thanksgiving is an awesome holiday and should be observed, but rather than fostering an attitude of thankfulness only a few days a year, we need to foster, develop, encourage, and grow that attitude in ourselves every DAY of the whole YEAR.
The Thankful Game needs to be played all the time. Now I'm not encouraging people to post on their social networks every day all the time. In fact please DON'T do that. Rather pray your thankfulness, if you are religiously inclined as I am - or keep it in your heart all day or write it down or privately express it in some way, if you are not. (In other words, thank God if you believe in him, thank karma or luck or your circumstances if you don't).
And that's when it really gets hard. Developing a sense of thankfulness every day of every year, no matter what else is going on in your life, is HARD. Can you be thankful when you get a flat tire and are stuck on the side of a busy highway with no spare? Can you be thankful when the dog has puppies and you didn't know she was pregnant... and she has them on your dry-clean only shirt that you needed for a business trip the next day? Can you be thankful laying in a hospital bed waiting for emergency surgery because your appendix has ruptured? Can you be thankful in the waiting room because someone else's appendix ruptured? Can you be thankful alone, in your room, when it seems no one is your friend and the loneliness buries you like a heavy wet blanket?
The only way to be bad at the Thankful Game is not to play. If you are reading this, it means you are among the wealthiest people on the planet. You have a home and electricity and light and a means to connect to the Internet. You also probably have a television to entertain you, a vehicle to get you places, and food in abundance. No matter your circumstances there is something to be thankful for.