Sunday, November 22, 2009

Thanksgiving thoughts

Ahhhh, Thanksgiving - such a sweet time of year. A time to count your blessings and give thanks. At the risk of getting a little “out there” I want to share my thoughts about what Thanksgiving means to me.

The desert fathers of the 3rd century described seven cardinal sins, one of which was greed. In their struggle for spiritual perfection, these early monks found that one antidote for greed was thanksgiving. More about that later. Many authors have written about greed’s effects on humanity. But no author captured the powerful pull of greed more poignantly than Leo Tolstoy in his story “How Much Land Does a Man Need?”

Written in 1886, the story tells of a man named Pahom who complains that he does not own enough land to satisfy him. He sets out to acquire more land but the more he acquires, the more dissatisfied he becomes. Finally he meets the Bashkirs and is told they are simple-minded people who own a huge amount of land. He approaches them to take as much of their land for as low a price as he can negotiate. Their offer is unusual: for a sum of 1,000 rubles, Pahom can walk around as large an area as he wants, starting at daybreak, marking his route with a spade as he goes. If he reaches his starting point by sunset of that day, the entire area he marked out is his. He is delighted believing he can cover a great distance and thinking he has stumbled upon the bargain of a lifetime.

His journey starts well. He covers a great deal of land but he is not satisfied and decides to walk even farther extending his boundaries as he goes. As the sun is setting however, he realizes his error and runs back as fast as he can to the awaiting Bashkirs. He finally arrives at the starting point as the sun sets. The Bashkirs cheer his return saying “Ah, that’s a fine fellow. He has gained much land!” Unfortunately, Pahom, exhausted from the run, drops dead. Tolstoy concludes: “His servant picked up his spade and dug a grave long enough for Pahom to lie in, and buried him in it. Six feet from head to his heels was all he needed.”

Charles Haddon Spurgeon said the same thing in fewer words when he said: “You say, ‘If I had a little more, I should be very satisfied.’ You make a mistake. If you are not content with what you have you would not be satisfied if it were doubled.”

And so this Thanksgiving season, I pause to reflect on the much that I have rather than the more that I don’t have (and don’t need). The much I do have includes a loving wife and family, my faith, good friends, great coworkers, good health, a sound mind (mostly), a sense of humor (usually) and a great place to work. Concerning Taylor, I give thanks every day for the opportunity to work in such a fine school set in stunning surroundings working with great people educating wonderful children.

Like William Shakespeare in Twelfth-Night, I can honestly say:
“I can no other answer make but thanks,
And thanks, and ever thanks!”

Happy Thanksgiving!

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