Thanksgiving September 21, 2022

The Working Catholic: Thanksgiving by Bill Droel

I’m at a disadvantage in our Mr. Baseball contest. Each March we select the teams that will make the playoffs and we predict which will go furthest. My problem is the Astros. They have already won the AL West but I didn’t pick them because of the trashcan cheating incident. They were not sufficiently punished, in my opinion. I carry my attitude about cheaters onto the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. If the steroid abusers ever get a plaque there, my donations to the Hall end.

Self-righteousness or sanctimony is a strong current in our culture. I suspect the judgmental strain is not found so much in other locales. Live and let live or Que sera is the idiom elsewhere.

Ours is a funny culture. It is libertine on the surface whereas Arab cultures and many others are restrained on the surface. Yet, if someone goes astray in our culture they are belittled. They cannot win an election or host a radio/TV show. They cannot hold a prominent position in a church or play football. Unless, that is the transgressor goes through a scripted process.

Our culture’s reaction to deviance is not hard-and-fast. In some cases we welcome a certain type of repentance—lots of sorrow, TV appearances, a round of sensitivity training perhaps. In fact, some celebrities whose fame is in decline deliberately set up a scandal for the sake of a “please forgive me” second act. Or so it seems.

Further, in our country some misbehavior is tolerated in select subcultures but not others. Different standards are in play for men or for select groups. Hypocrisy is routinely taken for granted in one place but quickly called out in another.

Gratitude is the conscious recognition that assembly line workers put the parts of my car together, allowing me to travel; that others constructed and service the roads I drive; that trades people built the house that shelters my family; that God put the necessary ingredients into the universe that allow for life; that my own unique life is a gift. Gratitude is not only the daily recognition of gifts but also graciousness toward those gifts and some expression of thanksgiving. Thank you to wait staff, to postal carriers, to spouse, to friends, clerks at the grocery and to God.

The opposite of gratitude is resentment. It arises from low self-esteem and results in judgmental attitudes. In our country we sometimes resent the elites. We presume they succeed by cutting corners. The well-paid Astros cheat. The multi-millionaire, top three single season home run leaders (all from the National League) allegedly used steroids. Though we scorn the rich, our resentment also prompts us to be like them. We desire to benefit from a side deal here and there.

We more often resent people whom we think are a step lower and who, in our opinion, are moving ahead at our expense. We resent those few families in our area who use a section eight voucher, paid for by our taxes. We resent refugees from Central America or Venezuela who simply show up uninvited and who then get tax supported social services. Don’t they?

In all cases of resentment we neglect to give thanks for all those who allowed us to move ahead. Resentment poisons one’s soul. It also sours our society and our economy. It causes polarization. Then, stoked by demagogues using inflammatory rhetoric, resentment becomes violent conflict.

Are there opportunities to remove resentment from our culture? The feast of Thanksgiving is supposed to be one occasion for gratitude and fellowship. Some people begin the day with grateful worship—though fewer people than 20 years ago. The other public event of Thanksgiving Day is football. Lots of fans attend or view one or more of the three NFL games to be played on November 24, 2022. Might there be any other time during the year for a public expression of thanksgiving? What could effectively remove some resentment? Suggestions are welcome.

Droel edits a newsletter on faith and work: INITIATIVES (PO Box 291102, Chicago, IL 60629)

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