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Things don’t make us happy. Sharing does.

Patricia McCarthy, CND

A Canadian religious sister was visiting her sisters in Cameroon in Africa. The sisters were taking her to a poor woman living in a traditional round adobe and thatched roof hut of the area. They gave the visitor a bag of rice to bring as a gift to the woman. They entered the home and gave the rice to the mother of the family. She invited them to be seated and said she would be with them in a minute. She left with the rice and returned a few moments later with half the bag gone. She had given the rice to a neighbor who had no more rice for her own family. Then the visit began.

This Thanksgiving the cost of food has escalated to such an extent that families are considering other meal menus for the day rather than the traditional one of turkey. It’s not a catastrophe, unless we choose to make it one. We gather with family this year, safely because of the decrease in COVID 19 and the availability of the vaccine. The USA had the highest death toll of any nation and we now have the highest number of vaccines available. Basically, anyone who wants one can get it. Some countries have less than 10% of their population vaccinated because they don’t have any.

We have suffered much loss of life due to the pandemic and are still feeling the effects emotionally, mentally and economically. But we are here and we can choose to celebrate this Thanksgiving by truly giving thanks with one another and remembering those who need “half of our rice.”

A heart full of life and gratitude does not come from accumulating things. If we give to the poor what is not essential, our lives become more full? Peter Maurin, the French philosopher who co-founded the Catholic Worker with Dorothy Day, said: “When we die we carry in our clutched hand only what we have given away.”

As we approach our season of Thanksgiving, we begin first to praise and thank God for life. We look around our homes to see if they reflect our gratitude. If life is all that matters, why do we let possessions consume us? Things don’t make us happy. Sharing, however, does. Gandhi said: “Civilization, in the real sense of the term, consists not in the multiplication, but in the voluntary reduction of wants.”

Jesus encountered a rich young man who was searching for meaning in life. His possessions weren’t satisfying him. Jesus loved him and encouraged him to let go of the things that were holding him from a full happy life. The young man couldn’t let go. Christ offered him life and he chose “stuff.”

Christ offers us life day after day. Appreciation for that gift is heightened as we let go of the stuff that clutters our homes and psyches. Gratitude and thanksgiving increase as we stop hoarding material possessions. It is not what is in our hands that proclaims the greatness of God, but what is in our hearts.

Article first published by the Rhode Island Catholic


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