Thoughts on Thanksgiving

When I’m tempted to complain about the lines at the store and the effort required to plan a holiday meal, I wonder what those who have nothing would think.

When I’m tempted to feel down about not seeing family at the holidays, I wonder what mothers of prisoners would think.

When family drama weighs on my mind and I’m tempted to be angry, I wonder what orphans, both young and old, would think.

When the future feels uncertain and I’m tempted to fret, I wonder what those who were recently diagnosed with a terminal illness would think.

When I’m discouraged that Thanksgiving means being stuck in the same house we’ve been in since March, I wonder what those who make their beds under bridges would think.

When I’m upset that traditions won’t be kept the same way and that things won’t feel like they always have, I wonder what refugees who’ve been away from home for years would think. 

When I take the food for granted and rush through the meal like it’s a job, barely tasting it as I eat past the point of satisfaction, I wonder what those with no food on their table would think. My wife’s great-great-grandmother lived through the Great Depression and was thrilled to receive an orange for Christmas one year. She marveled that her parents could do it. She ate one slice per day and wrapped the rest in a handkerchief until it was gone.

When I feel stretched by the demands of parenting and impatiently demand personal space, I wonder what parents who have lost children would think.

Giving thanks lifts me out of myself and provides a much needed distance from my wants, my needs, my disappointments and sufferings. To give thanks I have to forget myself for a minute and look around me, not just at the pains and trials of others, but at the good things life has afforded me.

I’ll never forget the morning after the saddest day of my life. The first thing I saw was the head of my 16-month-old boy looking up over the pillows in the hotel room to see if we were sleeping across the room. Would you believe that under grief so heavy I could hardly breathe I started off the day with a laugh? In one of the worst moments of my life, goodness found a way in.

I don’t know why 2020 has been so tumultuous and dark. I don’t know when COVID will be a page in the history books instead of the daily headline. I don’t know how to cope with the weight of this world completely. 

But I do know that to be here—just to have life and be able to think and breathe and eat and speak and give and receive love—is more than I might have, and for that, I am grateful.

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Lastly, there’s a prayer in the back of a prayer book that is relevant today. 

Accept, O Lord, our thanks and praise for all that you have done for us.

We thank you for the splendor of the whole creation, for the beauty of this world, for the wonder of life, and for the mystery of love.

We thank you for the blessing of family and friends, and for the loving care which surrounds us on every side.

We thank you for setting us at tasks which demand our best efforts, and for leading us to accomplishments which satisfy and delight us.

We thank you also for those disappointments and failures that lead us to acknowledge our dependence on you alone.

Above all, we thank you for your Son Jesus Christ; for the truth of his Word and the example of his life; for his steadfast obedience, by which he overcame temptation; for his dying, through which he overcame death; and for his rising to life again, in which we are raised to the life of your kingdom.

Grant us the gift of your Spirit, that we may know Christ and make him known; and through him, at all times and in all places, may give thanks to you in all things. Amen.

A General Thanksgiving, The Anglican Book of Common Prayer

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