Each year, the holidays come and go with such speed and gallant force that few of us remember to enjoy them. We are all so busy planning and doing, buying and worrying that the first snowflakes of winter fall and we see them as more of a hindrance than anything else. Halloween decorations are put away so quickly and before Thanksgiving has even been given its rightful attention, the stores are stuffed with Christmas decorations and gift ideas. Sadly, Thanksgiving is one of those simple holidays that involves very little ingredients. Good food, friends, and family are all it takes to make things perfect. And still, with the exception of toasting our tablemates the vast majority of us forget all about being grateful or the meaning of Thanksgiving.
Just for the sheer fun of entertaining you, let’s delve into the history of Thanksgiving. In this new land, where a new life began for Pilgrims with the promise of something better they found it very difficult to adjust. The climate alone surprised the new comers. Hiding in the woods were the Natives who knew how to hunt and survive in their world. Both groups of people were at first fearful of the other. Soon after the newcomers began dying. Illness and the cold were too much and more than half of all the people who boarded a ship with nothing more than hope in their hearts, died. Mothers and fathers were lost. Children were lost. The Natives emerged to help and without language and understanding, were able to take the hearts and hands of people they didn’t know, who were trespassing on their life – and enable them to not just live, but to thrive. That isn’t exactly how the history books depict Thanksgiving, but essentially that is how things went. And two cultures collided sharing only the embodiment of the human spirit.
There weren’t any turkeys eaten that day so long ago. In fact, they feasted on foods that few of us today would even consider eating. But they sat down together at a table and shared all the supplies that they had. Thanksgiving lasted a week or more, but the connections that were made that day lasted a lifetime. Today, we stress over the tablecloth that adorns our table. We fuss over what our children wear that day and worry about impressing family members we are too busy most of the year to even visit with. We spend a weeks worth of grocery money on one single meal that is eaten with the same gluttony that all of our meals are eaten and we say a prayer, a blessing of thanks and for a singular moment – remember what we are grateful for. Then comes black Friday and we move on, as we always do to the next best and most pressing thing that faces us in life.
This Thanksgiving can be different. While it would be great to have a completely authentic meal of quail and squirrel with corn cobs baked over a fire, there are other things we can do. Instead of remembering to be grateful, we can begin living gratefully. Each of us can start something new on this Thanksgiving that not only shows we are thankful for today, but thankful for all of the days of our lives. This Thanksgiving, there are a great many of us who like the Pilgrims and the Indians are living in fear of what is next, of what our neighbors in this world will do. There are many of us who are angry and hesitant, who have lost our faith in most things and who feel completely and entirely let down by the life that we have. On the outsides, we all pretend things are perfect. We drive the right cars; have the right house and smile proudly of our children. But few are actually enjoying these moments.
Thanksgiving 2010, can be the time to turn a leaf in your life. This can be the Thanksgiving that you and your family volunteer in a soup kitchen, invite another family that has less than you have over for dinner or spend your time doing something for others. Not because you want to prove or show your children how great they have it, but because you like those who spent the First Thanksgiving together realize the embodiment of the human spirit. Most of us are more alike than different. None of us are perfect and we all have struggles that we face every day. If you can take the spirit of being grateful that you have a willing heart to help others on this day, and others than Black Friday will become less important to you. You also might find that all the days between Thanksgiving 2010 and Thanksgiving 2011, are filled with more meaning than you ever thought existed.
It is true that there are ‘certain ways’ to do things in life. There are silent expectations and little and big things that we grow up feeling are important and right. However, this doesn’t mean that you have to always adhere to the normalcy and expectations of living. If you can find it in your heart this year to step out of your metaphorical box in life, just as the Indians and the Pilgrims did, you may find that you are able to get one-step closer to the abundant life that is promised for all of us. It seems silly in the presence of good company and good food to wait until New Years Eve, which will be upon you more quickly than you know, to make commitments to change the way you live, love, laugh, and give thanks.