Thanksgiving, REI, and the Pursuit of Happiness

S ThanksgivingThanksgiving is my favorite secular holiday of the year. It’s about food, family, and football, my greatest loves. It promotes sloth and community and fellowship and sleep. What’s not to love? Family bickering? I solve that by usually having thanksgiving with my “family” friends. You know, the people you chose to be family? Anyway, my happiest thanksgivings are filled with the smell of turkey, pumpkin and pecan pie, and sage stuffing (yes, it has to be sage). And there will be a bowl of corn on the table to give a hat tip to the Natives of this land who saved our starving skinny behinds despite the terror we reigned down upon them.

This year I will be missing my most favorite secular holiday for work. I will be in Cuba celebrating our sister church’s anniversary. I will be with my Cuban family. There will be no turkey or stuffing, in the traditional sense, there will be no football, no pumpkin or pecan pie. I am heartbroken in so many ways to “miss” thanksgiving. Some want to claim it’s just a day, and I can recreate it any other day, and they’re not completely wrong, except, they are missing a key piece of what I love about it.

Sabbath- to use a church word. Cuba

One of the reasons I love Thanksgiving is that it a culturally mandated Sabbath. A few people work groceries stores, and a few stores open for shoppers (a side note: I will not enter the debate about stores and thanksgiving, my only comment is this, we are such a consumer driven society and we have no idea how to stop, corporations are simply responding to our demand for more). Some will say that preparing a huge meal is work, entertaining is work.  For Homeless Shelters and Soup kitchens they are open, and the football players, announcers, etc, work.

A few years ago my extended family gathered for Thanksgiving, there were about 30 of us. I cooked the meal, I was exhausted at the end of the day, I spent 2 days preparing and shopping, the day was filled with timing and setting of tables. My family gathered around with heartfelt “what can I do?” After the meal there was Cards Against Humanity, more wine, and football. I was exhausted, my body was tired, but my soul was full.

Every year this is the case for me. Every year my soul fills with the joy of a great meal, family and friends, and football. Then night falls, and before the sun rises it has begun. Black Friday. The biggest shopping day of the year.

This year, REI has made the bold and (according to some experts) possibly stupid move to close on Black Friday. Maybe it’s a publicity stunt, maybe not, others have joined the movement #OptOutside. I say it’s this, I applaud the effort to extend Sabbath.

Black Friday is about stuff and the best deals. Black Friday is about consumerism. Thanksgiving is about gratitude and compassion. We buy mountains of stuff in the name of gift giving for “the most wonderful time of the year” without ever stop to consider what is actually wonderful.

REI has invited all of us to extend joy, rest, fun, play for another day. At the end of #OptOutside our bodies may be tired but our souls will be full. We need more days like this, more days of Sabbath. The point of it all is the American Dream, the dream has changed from “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” to “bigger, better, and more”.

God did not call us to the current American dream, or really anything “American”. God calls us to Sabbath, to rest, to enjoy life, to work for justice, not participate in oppression. I will be participating in my own Sabbath, as there is no cell service or cable in Cuba, my time will be at other’s mercy. Yet every time I go, I learn an important lesson. Slow down. Stop. Rest. Very little is that important…

I am sad to miss the day (maybe two) of culturally mandated Sabbath here in the US, especially with my kids who will miss seeing their mother provide hospitality and care for the people she loves the most. There will be other years, but this year, I have a favor to ask, take an extra day to rest, for me?

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