Where do I fit? – Thanksgiving – 2017

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The author has written on Thanksgiving Day on igNation several times.  He says that these words from 2015 still speak to him.

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 I’ve just re-read my posts for Thanksgiving from the past two years. I wrote of our need to grow in gratitude, not just on Thanksgiving Day, but throughout the entire year. This is always true, but especially for Canadians who have been so blessed. I’ve written before about being part of the two percent.

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I’m not part of the global elite that composes the one percent. Nor am I part of the vast majority of people around the world who live in poverty, hunger, the lack of a secure homeland, fear, violence war or powerlessness.

No, I am definitely somewhere near the top of the pile. So, I coined the term two percent. I used it because I live in one of the safest, wealthiest, healthiest nations on the face of the earth. Canada always places very high on global rankings of livability.

 

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However, since using the term, I’ve had to admit that I’m even better off than the majority of Canadians. I’m a white male. I’m highly unlikely to be “carded” by the police. I’ll never know the experience of women who experience sexism or discrimination in the workplace.

Regardless of how sympathetic I am to First Nations issues, I’ll never really know what it’s like to survive the residential schools or to live the hardships of a remote northern community.

I can understand the situation of survivors of childhood abuse, but that understanding is pretty limited. I can pass by the homeless man panhandling and not understand his situation. I will never have to worry about having meaningful labour.

I don’t know what it is to stand in line at a soup kitchen or at a food bank. I can’t imagine the constant chronic pain experienced by many people every waking hour.

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And, I am reluctant to mention this, but as a Jesuit living in community, I do not have to concern myself with mortgages or living from pay cheque to pay cheque or carrying a debt.

So, I’m no longer certain where I rank. If it’s not the one percent, it’s somewhere not too far from it. I may not have a personal jet, but I can find a welcome in Jesuit communities throughout the world.

That situation, and re-reading my older posts, heightens in me a sense of humility. I have so much and my life is so incredibly blessed, almost charmed. Why can’t I be more grateful for what I have! I’m sure there are many others of you who can share personal accounts such as this.

It’s Thanksgiving Day. What would it look like if a stance of gratitude became the manner by which we started each day? I suspect that it would change the way we look at and treat others. It would change how we see our family and friends.

We’d be more grateful for them. It might even change how we relate to the poor in our midst or to the refugee in Syria.

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Some years ago, as I recovered from a major illness, I lamented that so much had been taken from me. I said that all I had left was God, family and friends.

A wise friend replied, “And what is wrong with that?” Wise words! I wish I could live with that gratitude each day.

And, of course, the truth is that the illness and my journey since then has ironically given me so much more to be grateful for in my life.

Why can’t I just be better at being more grateful to God, not to mention to those around me?

That’s why we need holidays like this, days to remind us to be thankful.

Philip Shano, SJ has many years of rich and varied experience working with Ignatian spirituality: teaching, writing and using it in his ministry. He resides in the Jesuit community in Pickering, Ontario.

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