By GREG DOERING
Kansas Farm Bureau
Even as Thanksgiving draws near, it’s easy have a pessimistic perspective about the current state of the world. If you’re feeding a gathering of 10 people, a traditional turkey dinner will cost 20 percent more this year, according to an American Farm Bureau Federation survey.
To be fair, wages are rising but at a much slower pace so while the survey’s results are real, 20 percent is a bit of an overstatement. Nonetheless, that pinch in your pocketbook is real, and it’s easy to let it spoil Thanksgiving.
Our inclination to self-centeredness is partly to blame. We know exactly which rung on the ladder we occupy, and it’s all too easy to look up, see everyone a step or two higher and think we’re at the bottom. Our aspirations for tomorrow can easily lead to resentment today if we spend too much time looking up. We avoid looking down, not out of a feeling of superiority, but fear.
Fear our footing isn’t solid enough to prevent slipping down a rung. Angst our only assets are material in nature. Worry our worth is based on ascending. These are universal causes of anxiety and alarm even if they’re only true in our minds.
Just as our value isn’t set by a bank account, a meal’s quality isn’t dependent on its price. While accounting can make things look simple and tidy, it’s a poor approach to confine one’s life to a spreadsheet or the balance of a retirement account, especially this year.
Thanksgiving is the perfect time to reflect on just how much we take gratitude for granted and how skewed our perspective can become. A day reserved for family and feast is surely a reason to be grateful, but it’s worth acknowledging there’s value in recognizing the obvious and near rather than waiting for some special, unexpected good luck to express appreciation.
Is it not worth celebrating the mere fact we’re alive right now? When counting blessings isn’t that the logical place to begin? While not everyone has the opportunity to give thanks for the laughter of cousins playing while the adults cook or have those close conversations around the table after the meal is finished, the fact we’re here at all is notable.
The funny thing about recognizing the incredibly simple aspects of life is it has a way of changing your outlook. A week or two from now, no one will recall if the turkey was dry, the mashed potatoes were a little lumpy, who brought what pie or even what everything cost.
That’s the hope at least. It’s possible a curmudgeon or two will find their way to a few dinner tables, bringing with them dour assessments of the world and wanting to talk about unseemly topics like politics. Being thankful for life doesn’t mean we’re free from challenges.
However, we get to choose how we approach those challenges. Thanksgiving is a good time to focus on all the things big and small we’re grateful for. It should also serve as a reminder to take stock of our gratitude throughout the year. If you start with the simple fact you’re grateful to be alive, you can probably continue counting your blessings until your family’s next feast.
"Insight" is a weekly column published by Kansas Farm Bureau, the state's largest farm organization whose mission is to strengthen agriculture and the lives of Kansans through advocacy, education and service.