Have you ever noticed how Thanksgiving day can often feel a bit like that special time right before church when you teeter precariously between the love of God and potential homicide (mostly involving unruly offspring)?
Ah yes, a lovely holiday designed to allow all of us to express genuine moments of gratitude. Yep, that’s how it started, but some turkey farmer took a course in marketing and the holiday morphed into something about as unattainable as three dollar bills.
The special day arrives and invariably we find that a favorite recipe calls for more items than we have available and the only store opened charges only slightly less that the national debt for things like corn starch. Many times it is whole families that converge on one home and the host family is left with no place to go when they need a good cry. The television is set on ‘consistent blither’, although the only programs worth watching seem to be a fishing show and a football game, the rest of the programs seem steeped in another holiday altogether.
Between the lack of personal space and that unusual smell that seems to coincide with family closeness, someone suggests a strategic plan for the day after Thanksgiving sales. Uncles mumble and occasionally grunt as football players run back and forth on a pretty little pasture. Mostly they just hope they won’t have to chauffer the following day. If they refuse to pay attention they can claim ignorance.
Someone is dissatisfied with the sleeping arrangements, one nephew is in trouble for picking on the youngest, a brother-in-law still thinks random bursts of methane is high comedy and a sister really thinks that you should have had tofu turkey.
It’s amazing that holidays can become irresistible stress magnets. We promise ourselves that we won’t let the stress get to us, yet we fly into the holiday as if our entire psyche has had one too many botox injections and we probably won’t resemble our old selves till St. Patrick’s Day.
A few years ago I was left to consider the concept of thanksgiving at a time when I wasn’t ready for some football, and turkeys were still hanging out at the feed trough telling chicken jokes. Nope, this was smack dab in the middle of summer and I found myself understanding the idea of thanksgiving better than I ever had before.
All I had to do was pay attention to the things that I was grateful for and then let the person responsible know that I was obliged. Seemed simple enough.
“Thanks for checking me out.”
“This is a grocery store and it’s my job, sir.”
“OK - thanks for taking the job. Without you being here to check me out I might be tempted to walk out with it, so thanks for saving me from a life of crime.”
Some experiences actually went better. In fact, there were several people that were profoundly overwhelmed that someone would take notice of something that they had done. It was clear that many of these people had never been thanked before and it changed the way they looked at the rest of the day. Some thought I was joking and then seemed confused when there didn’t seem to be a punch line.
No football, no eating myself into a stupor, no stressful moment - just a few words of appreciation and my day was as close to perfect as they come.
The Old Testament is filled with moments where a father would bless his son. Jesus spent much time investing in the lives of those with whom He came in contact. He encouraged us to bless our enemies and not to curse them (I Peter 3:9).
If we have such examples that range from blessing our kids to blessing that rude brother-in-law, then extending a blessing to those we rarely come in contact with seems to make sense too.
The strange thing is you think you’re doing it for them but something happens to you that will amaze and astound.
Oh, and if you really want turkey you can always invite the guy that takes your groceries to the car to the deli for a smoked turkey sub with whatever fixings he wants - then invite him to the park so you can throw the pig skin for awhile. On second thought, maybe he’d take it better if you just said thanks.
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