As I have been contemplating this blog for Thanksgiving, I wanted to write about gratitude in Disney movies. However, it has occurred to me as I reviewed my personal knowledge of those movies that a large number of characters in Disney movies are not thankful. In fact they could be generally categorized as dissatisfied. It is not that there is no gratitude in Disney movies, there is often quite a lot, but not usually until the very end. Disney characters as a rule are not happy with the life they have.
I am willing to grant that some of them were right to be dissatisfied. Cinderella, Dumbo, Rapunzel, and Aladdin all had real reasons to be dissatisfied. Each of them had a problem to be overcome and that process drove the plot. However, they are the exception rather than the rule. Most Disney characters have a perfectly fine life which they are not grateful for at all (Yes, I am especially talking to you, Ariel & Lightning McQueen). Their stories are driven by the need to get something more, something better, something longed for, though perhaps not something particularly necessary. While I sympathize with Geppetto in his loneliness, is wishing for a puppet to come to life really a better option than making connections with the real people who are his neighbors? Belle has an unusual but comfortable life that is too boring for her. Elsa is a queen. There are many, many more examples. Disney is not a shining example of thankfulness and contentment. Unfortunately, the reason we tend to resonate with these characters is that we feel the same way.
Even while as a culture we sit down to celebrate how thankful we are for what we have, we are planning which Black Friday sales we will be heading to so we can knock people down for a $50 Playstation 4 or half price socks. The absurdity of this juxtaposition is not lost on me. In fact it seems to bother me more and more every year.
Let’s take a moment and think about this. Most of us have enough, more than enough. On Thanksgiving we don’t just take time to be grateful, we have a feast of extravagant proportions that celebrates just how much we have. Before the last piece of pie has settled we are encouraged to head out the door to buy more stuff. And in shocking numbers we will obey. We will head to Wal-Mart and Sears and Staples and Best Buy to get all those things we ‘need’. We are not encouraged to be thankful. We are encouraged to look ‘Around the river bend’ to the next big thing.
What if we relaxed into our thankfulness for more than a few hours? What if we looked around at where we are and were content not just for a day, but for a season? We are blessed, but we are trained to be discontent. This year let us refuse the discontent of the wanting and live in thankfulness. Let us truly give thanks for all that we have and live in gratitude.
“The Lord is good to me
And so I thank the Lord
For giving me the things I need
The sun and rain and an appleseed
Yes, he’s been good to me
I owe the Lord so much
For everything I see
I’m certain if it weren’t for him
There’d be no apples on this limb
He’s been good to me”