The cornucopia is a symbol we break out at Thanksgiving to remind us of the overflowing abudnance we enjoy. It’s often a centerpiece on the Thanksgiving table filled with plastic fruit and vegetables that spill out of the wicker, horn-shaped basket across the tablecloth.
In classical mythology the horn of plenty is said to have come from the goat Amalthaea and provided an endless supply of food or drink. If you think about it, a horn-shaped basket isn’t the most practical device for carrying things, but as you try to fill it with the fruits of your labor, you are quickly reminded that you have much to be thankful for.
Thankfulness is a virtue that I am still trying to master. It’s not that I am ungrateful for the blessings in my life, but I have struggled to be satisfied with what I have before me. A quick list of things that I am grateful for include:
- my wife, who is best friend, advisor, cheerleader, and spiritual mentor
- my daughter, in whom I delight for her wit, determination, and overall sweetness
- a multitude of other relatives and friends who inspire, entertain, and bless me
- colleagues, business partners and students who keep me on my toes and propel me to continuous improvement
- meaningful work that allows me to use my knowledge, skills, and abilities in new and innovative ways
- education and the ability to learn new things – shelter and transportation that makes my life comfortable and mobile
- health, sight, hearing, and the rest of the senses we take for granted
My struggle has been with staying mindful of these blessings and opportunities while also keeping an eye toward the horizon. I have missed the contentment and peace that comes with simmering in the stew of today because I wanted to jump into tomorrow’s pot. (Weird metaphor, I know!)
The gospel of Matthew records Jesus’ instruction to his disciples about worry. He said,
“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:34)
The opposite of worry is contentment; the idea that our desires are bound by what we already have. At the same time we have an innate desire to improve, advance, and acquire more.
Ambition is seen as a high virtue in our culture. But to what end? Greed, stress, an unending race toward bigger, better, faster?
I have written before on this dichotomy of ambition and contentment. And my solution now as it was before is a change in attitude and motivation from ambition to investment.
Investing in ideas, in relationships, in causes allows us an eye to the future without the negative consequences of blind ambition. Our mindset allows us to bless others and invest in their dreams and needs without the selfishness that often accompanies ambition.
When we rest in the satisfaction of what we have, using our gifts and resources to advance others either as individuals or communities, we can experience a new kind of thankfulness. It’s a deeper level of gratefulness that inspires us to give abundantly of our time, talents, and money.
So this Thanksgiving I am choosing to consider myself blessed. I will not compare my blessings to others, I will not worry about areas of lack, I will not be ambitious for my own gain. I will count my blessings one by one. I will give thanks for the people, provisions, and opportunities in my life.