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Thankful: yesterday, today and tomorrow




Evening Times Editor A s I’m sure all of you know, tomorrow is Thanksgiving.

For most of us, that means gathering around the table for a nice meal surrounded by friends and family. There will be turkey and dressing and all the usual suspects (regular readers might recall my particular fondness for deviled eggs).

It’s a great day, not only for the food but for the family and fellowship. In many households, the meal will be predicted by someone saying grace, a blessing of the food or a prayer of thanksgiving. As I’ve gotten older, I have had the opportunity to be the one to say the blessing a few times. It’s always tough to express with words just how thankful I am and how blessed we are, even when it might seem there’s a lot of bad in the world.

Thanksgiving is a uniquely American holiday. There are other cultures that celebrate Easter and Christmas and New Year’s Day, but our Thanksgiving holiday is for us and us alone here in the U.S. We give thanks to God for another year gone by and it harkens back all the way to the 1600s when the early colonists we usually refer to as “The Pilgrims” had a commemorative meal with the local native tribes.

Back then, it was to give thanks for their survival. Most of us are fortunate to be doing a little more than surviving. But not all of us. There are folks right here in our community who won’t have a Thanksgiving meal unless it comes from a food bank or from the 8th Street Mission or some other charitable organization. No matter where you are in life, if you’re reading this, be thankful for what you have.

Last Sunday, being the Sunday before Thanksgiving, the Sunday school lesson was a Thanksgiving-themed one. As I was preparing to teach this particular lesson, I, as I often do, picked my wife and daughter’s brains for insights.

I chuckled a bit when my daughter asked me if I wanted “a Sunday school answer or a real answer,” because that’s just the sort of thing 15-year-old me would have asked. I told her a real answer would be fine, but she thought about it and came up with a more biblical answer than I was expecting.

She said we should remember the lesson of the Prodigal Son and we should learn to be thankful for what we have now and be satisfied that we will have more in the future. I have to admit, it was deeper than I was expecting. But it did get me to thinking about how most of my life, when I have thought about what Thanksgiving means, it was always something along the lines of “Thank you, God, for all that you have given me.” It never hit me that we should also remember that there is plenty of life ahead of us.

I’m a couple of years shy of 50 now. My children are grown (well, that one 15-year-old is still at home) and I can see them settling into their grown-up lives. I’m thankful not only for all that I have and all that they have but also for what they will have, what their children will have and so on and so forth and that I will have been able to see the beginnings of those next steps and maybe play a role in setting them off in the right direction.

In a way, many of us are like that Prodigal Son my daughter reminded me of the other day. We want our many blessings and we want them now! We’ve become a little too impatient. We’ve also lost sight a little about how much we have to be thankful for here in 2021. We seemed so focused what makes us mad or sad or disillusioned that it has even gotten into how we approach Thanksgiving. Did you know that there are some who want to “cancel” Thanksgiving? It’s a celebration of the exploitation of indigenous people, they say. Little kids dressing as “Pilgrims and Indians” for school Thanksgiving parties is cultural appropriation, they say.

And sure, there’s a lot more focus on football games and Black Friday Sales and such instead of giving thanks to God for another year of blessings, but let’s just remember what we are gathering together for. It’s not about having more than the guy next door. It’s not about impressing people you work with or go to church with or see at the store. It’s about having a heart full of gratitude and a spirit of giving. Do you know someone that, for whatever reason (new to town, down on their luck, old and alone) won’t have a Thanksgiving dinner to look forward to tomorrow? If so, call them up. Invite them over. Make a spot at the table for someone who doesn’t have one this year. You know you don’t want all those leftovers, right?

You can even share your deviled eggs!

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