The world is so much smaller now that it was when I was younger. Of course, the size of the world hasn't changed, but technology has made neighbors of us all. We are a society of instant news and information, constantly bombarded with tweets, updates, likes and breaking news.
Today, Americans pause for Thanksgiving. A time in which we take stock and express our gratitude to those in our lives that we cherish the most. We think about family, friends and thank God for the many blessings we have.
The question becomes, "How do we get away from it all? How do we take a deep breath and take all the holidays in without screaming?" We are a society that has let things get a bit out of hand during the holiday season. Commercials for Christmas hit the airwaves at the same time that businesses stock the shelves with Halloween candy. We make plans to camp outside our favorite retail establishment for days at Thanksgiving so that the new hot bargain on Black Friday is our prize.
You may ask, "What's wrong with this picture?" Equally, you may be surprised by my response. "Nothing."
We cannot stop the wave of societal norms and pressures any more than we can stop the sun from rising in the morning, and why would we?
The concept of internal control versus external control comes into play at this particular moment. Do we let events and pressures external to those things important in our life dictate how we handle the holidays? Or, do we pull back from the world and focus on what really matters to us?
For some, getting that great bargain is the internal focus and there is nothing wrong with that priority. As it is frequently stated each winter, no two snowflakes are the same, so it should easily extrapolate that no two people have the same focus of importance during the holiday season. And that's just fine.
It would be a fair assumption to postulate that most people during this time of year have a strong focus on family and friends. Meals are planned and families gather to celebrate the bond felt within. Souls are renewed. Bonds are strengthened.
But, even with our focused narrowed, it is very easy for outside influences and daily routines to seep into the cocoon we build. It's all around us.
For example, on the right side of this page is an article about the conflict between the Palestinians and Israelis. As you read this column, bombs are dropping on the innocent as well as the perpetrators of hate. People are living in fear of death falling from the sky at any moment because of a war that began generations upon generations ago with no real end in sight. This fear has become part of normal, everyday life for the people of this particular part of the world.
On the left side of this page, Doctor K writes about the power of positive thinking. Without a doubt, his opinion has been shown true, especially through the power of prayer.
But what about the people who pray every day for the bombing to end? What about the people who maintain a positive attitude in the face of odds that would otherwise turn Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm into Eeyore?
And what about those who are experiencing the holidays for the first time without a cherished loved one? How do they get through this season?
With the love from family and friends, that's how.
Take the time this Thanksgiving to unplug from the grid. Turn the phone off. Tweets can wait. Uploading pictures to Facebook can be delayed. Checking YouTube videos can be postponed to another time.
Instead, sit back and take a look around. Take in all the visuals and burn them into your brain. You never know for sure if this is the last time you will see them as you will today.
Listen to the sounds around you. Enjoy the clank of pans, the jingle of silverware. The inevitable laughter from a bad joke told by the crazy uncle in the family. The squeals of joy and little feet as children run through the home in the inevitable game of chase.
Memorize the sights. The color of a perfectly, or not so perfectly, browned turkey. The color of the leaves on the ground and the blue of the autumn sky. The faces of loved ones.
Inhale deeply the smells. The aroma of foods of all kinds spread out to eat. The perfume of a favorite aunt, sister, mother or grandmother as you hug them. The varied smells, from pleasant to not-so-pleasing, of the baby meeting the extended family for the first time.
Feel the many textures of the holiday. The arm of your grandmother as you help her to her chair. The tangled hair of a little boy as you ruffle it. The heat of the casserole dish as you place it on the table between your aunt's chicken & dumplings and your mother's chocolate cake. The turn of the doorknob as you welcome family and friends into your home and your heart.
Savor the flavors of your favorite foods that taste so much better just because someone you love cooked it.
Pay attention to the simple things. Really listen to music. Let the purity of a single note hit by a singer with perfect pitch move you to tears. Lay back on the ground and look up at the sky, knowing that the same sky can be seen at the very same moment by millions of people caught up in the same appreciation of God's wonder as you.
Most of all, remember those who are less fortunate than you. Pray for those who are in pain. Visit a friend who is alone for the first time this Thanksgiving. Let them know you care.
And while you lay there, looking up at the sky, say a prayer for peace to come to those who are in peril. It is the reason of the middle ground where compromise is found.
Be thankful. Appreciate.
But most of all…share.