Gero-Punk Provocation: Gimmie Gimmie Gratitude

Greetings, Gero-Punk Project friends! We’re celebrating contemplation and gratitude all week long, so please check back daily for Thanksgiving reflections from our wonderful guest essayists. Many blessings, much love!


Gimmie Gimmie Gratitude

by guest Gero-Punk

Helen Fern


As Thanksgiving approaches I find myself observing a culture that seems oblivious to the concept of thankfulness.  We move from gimme gimme Halloween to gimme gimme Christmas with such smoothness and ease that the idea of stopping for a moment to ponder the wonderful things around us seems to elude so many people.  The comedian George Carlin centered an entire routine on Americans and their “stuff”.  But I wonder, could we change?  Could we start a new trend of gratefulness?

When George Washington announced that November 26 would be a national day of thanksgiving, I don’t think his intent was to declare a national day of gluttony.  Nor did Abraham Lincoln ever consider that this day would signal frenzy of shopping and over indulgence.  The day was intended to be set aside to thank God for His gracious gifts.  Choosing the forth Thursday instead of the third Thursday was specifically not to give into the retailers.  It was intended to be a spiritual time of reflection and joy in the things that make our lives meaningful.

To me Thanksgiving is an attitude.  It’s an attitude of reflection on all the amazing gifts our world has to offer us.  It is an attitude of joy that we rise each morning to a new day.  It is an attitude of gratefulness. Thanksgiving is a day to take that attitude and slather your friends and family with that joy and gratitude.  To offer gifts of yourself – lovingly preparing food; decorating the home with the fruits of the harvest and the beauty of the autumn colors.  It is a time to bundle up in warm blankets by the fire as winter tries to push her icy fingers into the atmosphere.  Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on the year past – and the amazing things that have transpired.

It is not a single word – Thanksgiving.  It is two words that backward and forward say the same thing – Giving Thanks.  Look up the word Thanks in your thesaurus.  You’ll see words like recognition, grace, acknowledgement, and blessing.  You won’t see gorge yourself and then go trample your neighbors at the black Friday sale.  Thanks giving.  Giving thanks.  Two simple words, one simple concept.  Why is that so difficult to get?

I suppose I should be happy that we haven’t figured out how to commercialize the holiday – yet. But what if…. What if we marketed the attitude?  What if we advertised on billboards and on TV?  Ban all Christmas advertising until after Thanksgiving and ask; Hey folks,  What are you thankful for today?  Did you see that sunset last night?  Look at the bowl full of apples on your table – what a wonderful harvest.  Feel how soft your cat’s fur is.  What a wonderful thing to have such a creature to love.  Do you think it would fly?  Do you think our society would be interested in something so novel, and free??  I think it would be worth the effort.

So now that I’ve ranted on the lack of true thanksgiving in our American culture, I’d like to challenge everyone to spend some time next Thursday reflecting on what is good and lovely in your life.  I challenge you to stay out of the stores at least until Friday morning (or don’t participate in the frenzy at all).  Spend some time with those you love and really be present with them.  If you have no family nearby, help out at a homeless shelter.  Think about all the things we have that we take for granted, things that truly make our lives richer.  And if you meet this challenge, I believe that you will discover an honest spirit of thankfulness and the world will become a more positive place.

Are you up for the challenge?


Helen Fern earned her undergraduate degree in Human Studies with honors from Marylhurst University. She is in her first year of the Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies program. She is a photographer, doll maker, mushroom forager, and child development expert.

About Jenny Sasser, Ph.D.

I am a freelance educational gerontologist, writer, community activist and facilitator. I am former Chair of the Department of Human Sciences and Director of Gerontology at Marylhurst University. I joined the faculty as an adjunct member of the Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies program in 1997 and since that time, I've been involved in designing many on-campus and web-based courses and programs for adult learners, including in Gerontology. As an undergraduate I attended Willamette University, graduating Cum Laude in Psychology and Music; my interdisciplinary graduate studies at University of Oregon and Oregon State University focused on the Human Sciences, with specialization areas in adult development and aging, women’s studies, and critical social theory and alternative research methodologies. My dissertation became part of a book published in 1996 and co-authored with Dr. Janet Lee--Blood Stories: Menarche and the Politics of the Female Body in Contemporary US Society. Over the past twenty (or more!) years I have been involved in inquiry in the areas of creativity in later life; older women's embodiment; sexuality and aging; critical Gerontological theory; transformational adult learning practices; and inter-generational friendships and cross-generational collaborative inquiry. I am co-author, with Dr. Harry R. Moody of Aging: Concepts and Controversies (now in its 10th edition!) and first author, also with Moody, of the recently published Gerontology: The Basics, as well as author/co-author of several book chapters, articles and essays. I am on the Portland Community College Gerontology Program faculty.
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