This holiday, leave entitlement at door

By Clyde Davis: Local columnist

I knew a woman once who, on receiving a diagnosis of cancer, did what most of us would do, submitting to the treatment (which entailed surgery) and going about the course of therapy which was necessary. Like many cancer survivors, after a period of some months she was ready to get on with her life.

This brings us to the point of today’s column, of which unfortunately this person supplied a negative example; a point which ties in strongly with Thanksgiving, celebrated this coming Thursday. The question which I’m asking is, do you approach life with a sense of gratitude, in other words as a gift, or a sense of entitlement?

Local retailers began to display Christmas items and merchandise as early as September, and I suppose that, for the purpose of keeping up with the rest of the marketing world, this was essential. However, the downside of this is, it provides one more way of distracting or downplaying thanksgiving — the concept — behind the holiday.

Many of us who have survived serious health challenges understand, at a deeper level, the concept of gratitude. This does not mean that we do, nor should we, go about constantly in a state of obeisance, grateful to be alive and willing to be a doormat. If anything, we may find ourselves living life more intensely, knowing that every experience counts. It doesn’t mean that we allow others to have their way, grateful for the ability to breathe. If anything, it may mean that we assert ourselves more strongly, knowing in a new way that our vote matters.

Underlying it, though, is a frequent sense of gratitude and blessedness. I feel it when, under stressful conditions, I complain that my life should be different — then remember that my life could have been “not at all.” My friend the agnostic, who had a bout with breast cancer, knows that her life is a blessing and is grateful for it, though she’s not sure where the blessing comes from.

By contrast, the view of entitlement breeds a belief that one is deserving of the blessing, that one is entitled to it, and that the world, or whomever, owes me this or that — health, strength, or whatever, and that I better get it.

We can’t really touch thanksgiving if we believe that we are entitled to be blessed, and unfortunately this is a growing attitude in our world, one which needs to be looked at carefully and critically. We are no more entitled to the good in our lives than the Pilgrims were to the kindness of the original Americans.

Before you sit down to your meal Thursday, ask yourself — blessing, or entitlement?

Clyde Davis is pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Portales and a college instructor. He can be contacted at:
clyde_davis@yahoo.com