Stop. Be thankful.

It’s funny how a holiday originally meant to give thanks for what we have has been turned on its head.

We gobble down the fixings and the turkey (or ham or chicken or beef, should you be like the 22% of Americans that won’t be eating that particular type of fowl this year according to the University of Illinois). We spend some time with the family, but inevitably before we’re even done digesting the plenty, many of us are ready to get shopping.

Black Friday shopping, and the less than civil behavior it can bring out in people, seems to be the antithesis of what the Thanksgiving holiday is actually about. Peruse YouTube for any length of time and it is easy to find numerous examples of shoppers behaving badly.

In one CNN report, a woman used pepper spray on other shoppers. In another, two men broke into a fist fight in the jewelry department of a Walmart in Kissimmee, Florida. In another, someone actually fired a gun to scare away competition for bargain items. That’s on top of the annual shoving and yelling and shopping cart stealing that goes on in nearly every doorbuster big box.

While those are some extreme examples, it highlights a larger problem: sometimes we get so wrapped up in the want of the holidays, we forget to appreciate what we have. Thanksgiving is not about stuffing our faces, and it is not about viciously out shopping our fellow man in a mad-dash of avarice-fueled rage.

It all started with celebrating what we have.

As the classic “Thanksgiving story” goes, those initial Puritan settlers of Plymouth were carving out survival in a world foreign to them. History is a bit more complex than a children’s tale, but the simple version is the English settlers and the native Wampanoag people struck up an agreement born of mutual respect.

Samoset, a leader of the Abenaki people, and Tisquantum helped the settlers insure they would have food to eat by teaching them local knowledge of how to grow staple crops like corn.

In that brief time of peace (it only lasted a year according to National Geographic), the tribe and settlers shared a harvest celebration feast, “the first Thanksgiving.”

While the history that followed is nothing short of a massacre, in that moment these people were demonstrating true empathy for one another. Kindness, compassion and love are the reasons for this season.

Many in our own community are not so fortunate. According to the ALICE survey data, about one in three families in Navarre are one missed paycheck away from being unable to meet their bills, not being able to feed their families and/or becoming homeless.

This past week 400 families received food through Farm to City and Feeding the Gulf Coast in Santa Rosa County. Those men, women, seniors and children would have otherwise gone without a Thanksgiving meal.

Another 200 plus families were helped with food boxes by Sharing and Caring of South Santa Rosa County. In both cases, these families were all prescreened to determine actual need. Poverty and hunger are out there.

It’s easy to get wrapped in the daily grind. We all have our burdens to bare, and no man can understand the demons another man faces. But we can all take just a moment to be thankful for what we have, whether it be a little or a lot. Take a moment to write down at least three blessings in your life. You will be surprised how you feel afterward.

Be thankful we are alive and get to see one more sunrise or sunset, thankful that our belly is full or that we live so close to paradise. Be thankful for the people we love and who love us.

Yes, life’s hard. But thank God we are living it. Be thankful. For just a moment, stop and be thankful.

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