Thanksgiving is the combination of two simple words: thanks and giving. It’s a nice sentiment for a holiday. However, have you ever noticed how the tradition of giving thanks, which should be selfless, tends toward the self-centered?
Think of it this way, while sitting around the Thanksgiving table amid a bounty of food, a person typically gives thanks for family or the food on the table and the roof overhead. (This year many people are likely just thankful we haven’t all been obliterated by a nuclear war.) All these items, though, are about that person and what makes his or her life safe or good or better.
It’s not a bad to give thanks in this way. It’s good to appreciate what you have. But it’s what you have. This made me think about all the thanks we give during this time of year. What about the opposite? What about the thankless? What about all the people in the world who, even on Thanksgiving, no one calls out at the dinner table.
Have you ever heard anyone utter the following words while waving a turkey drumstick, “I’m really thankful for the janitor who cleans up the messy lunch and crumbs I leave in my office every day”?
Many people perform tasks and jobs we should all be thankful for, but those people go unnoticed by the masses for their hard work, despite all the lives they touch.
So I’d like to be thankful this year for people with thankless jobs. Here are a few (note: this list is not all-inclusive!)
Moms, especially stay-at-home moms, who do everything and never get time off because their job is 24-7. The dads of the world look for praise when they do the dishes, but it’s rare for people to say “thank you” to the moms for these same tasks. (Mother’s Day only happens once a year and I don’t think that’s sufficient thanks.)
Moms have many jobs: housework, emotional support, cooking, cleaning, organizing. And they rarely ask for anything in return. I realize this is stereotyping, not all moms cook or clean or do the stereotypical “mom” things. But they all take on extra burdens both physically and emotionally. And it’s important to remember, if you’re one of those lucky people who can simply come home from work, kick up your feet and watch TV, most moms don’t. They’re helping with homework, grocery shopping, talking with kids about issues, sending emails for school volunteer jobs. So, thank you, moms, especially you stay-at-home moms. This Thanksgiving, I’ll be giving thanks for you.
If you think teacher appreciation week is sufficient to thank all the teachers out there, you’re wrong. The job of a teacher is not an easy one, even with a summer break. (You spend 8 hours a day with 30 children and see how you’re feeling after 9 months.) It’s not easy. Not to mention they’re responsible for the intellectual growth of our children. And they don’t get thanked nearly enough for all they do. Even if you don’t have children or if yours are grown, teachers touched your life in some way. And schools and teachers are critical for the health of a community. Be thankful for them this Thanksgiving.
Oh, how thankless it can be as a volunteer. People expect so much and forget you’re not getting paid. The demands of volunteers are many. The time they give to their volunteer work is often considerable. And the thanks are slim. So, thank you to all the volunteers out there, the people who go out canvassing for candidates, the girl and boy scout leaders, the people who to go soup kitchens on Thanksgiving instead of being home with their families. Anyone who takes time out of their lives to help others out of the goodness of their hearts, you are the unsung heroes of a community.
Police and Firefighters
If you’re from a family of policeman or firefighters, you might give thanks to them. But, generally, they have a pretty thankless job. It’s rare that someone goes up to a police officer and says, “Hey, thanks for protecting me” or a firefighter and says, “Hey, thanks for putting out all those fires.” But, these are the people who choose to protect us and we rarely thank them in everyday life. So, maybe this Thanksgiving, give thanks for them.
In my daughter’s elementary school, after events that left the cafeteria or gym littered with trash, she’d try to stay behind and help the janitor clean up. She knew him by name and they were friendly. I love this about her. So many people ignore the wonderful people in these types of support positions. No one says thank you to the woman emptying the garbage in the bathroom at Whole Foods. I’ve never seen a single person even make eye contact. Janitorial staff is just one example of a wide range of thankless support jobs (ie, the people who support this society every day and go unnoticed or unacknowledged for how important they are). It’s the bus drivers, the custodians, the sanitation workers, the security guards and the many more positions I don’t have enough room to name. We should be thanking them for Thanksgiving.
Lastly, I have to mention writers. You might not think of this as a “thankless” job. But, as a writer, I know how thankless it can be. In fact, there are no thank yous. No one ever says, “thank you for all time and energy and love you poured into this book no one has read and may never read.” For writers, life is mostly writing, editing, revision, rejection, rejection, criticism. Wash. Rinse. Repeat. It’s not easy to remain positive. But, there is a great writing community of organizations, groups and social media. When you’re feeling down or need some advice, there is always somewhere to turn and people who understand. So while being a writer may be thankless, I’m thankful for the other writers out there. They keep me going.