The Day We All Give Thanks
One thing that reminds me I am getting older is the way holidays now come around so fast and make my head spin with flowing memories. There are the Thanksgivings of my childhood, when we went to my great-grandmother’s house and my grandparents were probably only slightly older than I am now. We kids were excused from the table and explored the house, finding rooms one year that we could not find another. Then there was the Thanksgiving of my freshman year, when surviving to Thanksgiving proved I was really a full-fledged college student now. And there are the Thanksgiving traditions laid down over time with my spouse and children that I hold dear.
Even as I reflect upon the unique particulars of Thanksgiving Days I have known, I appreciate Thanksgiving as the quintessential holiday that everyone in our country shares in together. Though we invoke different names for God (or no name at all), our feeling of gratitude is shared as we remember that so much of what we have and who we are comes not from ourselves, but from the faith others have in us, the cooperation of co-workers, the generosity of our ancestors, the myriad of influences beyond our power that contribute to our well-being. On Thanksgiving Day we appreciate all that has been given to us, including one another. The challenge is to do so every day.
On other days, it is easy to be defined and divided by our differences. Christian or agnostic, straight and gay, liberal or conservative. Within the church, we retreat into our corners with our like-minded friends. We allow ourselves to see others as one-dimensional caricatures. To appreciate how much we have in common, we need to get to know one another, not as advocates or adversaries, but as people. People who celebrate Thanksgiving with family and friends after watching the Macy’s parade on TV, just as we do. People who cheer at football games, care about the environment and go for walks on crisp fall afternoons.
When we in the church see one another that way every day, beyond the differences between us, I will weep in gratitude and lift it up as my particular thanks when we go around the table before digging into our Thanksgiving meal. (That’s one of the Thanksgiving traditions in our house.)
As human beings, we all have our blind spots and prejudices. But for our country and our church to live and breathe fully, we must set our assumptions aside. Thanksgiving is the gift from our forbearers to practice doing so, at least for one day. And then let’s choose to practice that acceptance again today, and tomorrow, and the day after that. We can treasure the details of our own experience of Thanksgiving even as we embrace our common human feeling of thanks for the rich gift of life in all its mystery and fullness.
I so hope you had a blessed Thanksgiving and that the goodness of the day reverberates far down into the days to come for you!