Thanksgiving – the holiday – the day itself – is a pretty awful holiday from my perspective because of the bad feelings it brings to many of my friends. And the danger it brings to some.
It’s not that I don’t like getting together with the closest of my kin over a table best described as ‘The Who Feast.” I consider all that time with kith and kin to be sacred time: the few and blessed times when we come together with no particular reason except to be together. Most often, great mounds of Southern family comfort foods are involved.
What makes it terrible, and probably an even worse holiday than St. Valentines day, is that many, many of my friends and acquaintances don’t have the experience that I do.
Theirs is quite terrible.
Thanksgiving by staying close to its non-retail definition is a time for us to pause in all our bounty and to give thanks for it, while surrounded by those in our life who make our days so very bountiful. I would add on that we would be better served as spiritual people to forget about remembering all the stuff in our lives, and concentrate on the people.
I am thankful for…
Fill in the blanks on this one. Everyone has one to finish that sentence, even those who think that their life is so bleak that there’s nothing around to find that’s worth giving thanks. No matter how terrible your life is – or how terrible your experience of your life is – someone around you is happy for your presence on the planet. Someone is your buddy. Someone sees you in the club and without even speaking to you or expressing it, you are their hero, the model, the one that they look for as a reason to get out of bed the next day.
You can choose to be thankful for the goodness – yes, the blessings – you give to others that you are never aware of. You can be thankful that you are here, that your voice is recognized, or that your text is expected and looked forward to. Go ahead and be thankful that maybe even just one night a week someone sees you out in public, and they think that you are the person they want to be when they “grow up.”
The revelation here is that this all without them seeing any of your internal monsters.
This week I read stories among my social media friends of their family members who say to them (I paraphrase) that some bad-mouthed family member is “thankful” for everything except that person they are sending the message to. I have to ask my usual question at this point: can somebody show me the Jesus in saying that?
Last week I read stories from people who said that they absolutely did not want to go home for this “feast” because someone in their family was the bigot, and that the bigot was proud of that, and they’d never change. So the person writing would then have to sit there all through dinner (etc.) quietly while the bigot in their family spouts their poison all over the table and all over the others sitting there. Still, our writer was expected to sit there and quietly take that verbal beating because that loud-mouth was in a position of respect (hah!) in the family.
Not in my family.
The great thing about growing up and moving on from some of those back home connections is that you are an adult on your own, and it is time to add in the people who you choose to be a part of your extended family. Not blood kin (necessarily) you can pull in friends, acquaintances, colleagues – the people that you care to spend time with. These are people who you are truly thankful that you get to see them, and talk with them. These are the people whom you love and who love you.
“I am thankful that – regardless where we are in our separate lives – that you are still a part of my family.”
Imagine for a second the scene above with being forced by tradition and family mores to sit and listen to some hater spew forth such bad and abusive language to the rest of the family. Think of the very young – the children and grandchildren sitting there. Do not forget that these small humans hear everything you say. Do not forget that children are not born knowing how to hate: somebody has to teach them. Protect the children as you can. Teach them – even if the teaching is only that they get to see you, and understand that the hate talk is all lies of the devil. If such terrible talk were true, maybe you, or someone else in your family, wouldn’t be there to love that child. Just love a kid: they learn a lot from that.
Where does the hate cycle stop?
My family is this huge cauldron full of a mixture of my kin folk, of people I have known for decades, of new friends, people from work, people from church, people down the street at the store, people from 25 years ago in California or New York, and on and on and on. I am thankful for each of them, and keep that in mind every day as I’m going about my business, rather than saving up to tell them just one day a year.
The bad apples that fall into that great stew: well, they get picked out over time. Some of them you can help them along by cutting out that bad spot and teaching them better. And teaching them better by example.
Some of those folks just get picked out and thrown away because if they stick around with whatever negative meanness is in them, they will spoil everything else in my life. There is no space in my life for spoilage, an no time to fix that mess up. I’ve said goodbye to many people who I thought were friends, some of them I had known for decades. Saying goodbye is tough some times, and more often than I care to remember it’s very easy to do when that supposed friend and I realize we will never find a place of common, happy friendship.
Just because someone is no longer in my extended family and great litany of friends does not mean that they don’t deserve a place in my prayers. In your meditations, always remember those who are no longer with us, either because they have passed from this Earth to something else, or a choice was made to be apart from them. It’s tough. It’s advanced Christianity right along with praying for your enemies.
I know I’ve shared this verse before, and here it is in another context. It’s that nearly forgotten little verse right at the ending of Psalm 23
(Ps. 23:6) Only goodness and kindness
shall follow me all the days of my life
That follow word in there – try not to get stuck in reading that as “my life and the people in it who are jerks and assholes… What’s so good and kind about them?”
Read the line again as if the word is fill:
I will be filled with nothing but goodness,
for the length of all my days.
And thus by being filled that way, we live into a life for with others are thankful, and they say/pray,
“I am so thankful that you are in my life, because you are teaching me how to live my life better.”
Be thankful this season, forgetting your material abundance and the things in your life that you own, rent, lease, borrowed. Forget the jerks and assholes in your so-called “family” because their words are their words, and not your thoughts.
Be thankful that you are an inspiration to others, even though you may never know it.
Keep the faith!