Ah, Thanksgiving. A National Holiday rich with tradition going all the way back to when the first pilgrims traced their hands on construction paper and made a turkey out of it. No? Oh, right, it's when we fill our hearts with gratitude for all the wonderful things in our lives such as our health, and our loved ones all around us, good food and shelter...but then what about those who aren't in such good health, or are missing someone dear to them, or lost their job and maybe their homes this year. It starts to seem like what we're really being grateful about is good thing it's them not us, and that seems uncomfortable so we donate some canned goods to the local food bank to try to even things up a bit.
I wonder if there are some billionaires sitting around the table on their own tropical island giving thanks for the private jets that got them all there, and for the skill of their personal chefs, and for how nicely the renovations to the waterfall in the pool came out. And what they're really doing is being thankful that they're not like us, and they donate an old Porsche to Mother Wattles to make themselves feel ok about that.
And then there is the vision of people who have almost nothing, but are happy and grateful anyways, like Bob Cratchit's family in A Christmas Carol. There they were all cheering around that weird figgy pudding, and cute little Tiny Tim..oh it's so confusing.
So I was going to try to come up with a list of things to be thankful about that weren't so much about having or not having, such as "the love of my family and friends" or "freedom" or "Jesus for saving our souls" or "sunsets and sunrises" but I risk making you want to hurl your sweet potato casserole all over the freshly pressed tablecloth, so I won't do that. I considered listing the irrelevant but nice things like: cranes in the lake, my close parking spot at work, blog comments, warm weather in November, a cat that curls up in my lap and purrs. Stuff that just happens, whether I deserve it or not, that makes me feel fortunate. But you know that somewhere within me is another possibly longer corollary list of irrelevant undeserved things that really TICK ME OFF and the thankfulness out there is that I'm finally learning that it's best not to go on about all of it quite so much.
So here's what Thanksgiving really means to me: Going to my Aunt Judy's house and eating the most incredible meal I will have all year. She is a phenomenal cook and goes all out to put forth this amazing spread of food for our family and hers, over 20 of us counting the kids. Of course we bring along our own pathetic little food offerings, a pie or a side dish, but it never seems like enough in comparison to what she has provided for us on that day every year. I do know that she enjoys doing this and that it's important to her to keep a connection to her brother's family and see all us kids and our kids interacting together. That's when I feel gratitude. Thankful to her for giving of her talents in a way that has come to mean so much. It makes me want to be like that. Except for the cooking part, you know how that's going for me.
This summer I got a chance. My niece and nephew were already here for a sleepover, and we worked it out that my mother and Aunt Judy would come over to visit with her two grandaughters. I served deli sandwiches so it wasn't about the food. It was about these 6 cousins, so close in age, having a ball of a time swimming in our backyard pool, going around the path in the park, and playing "tiki bar." So there we were on the patio in the perfect sunshine and the kids were serving us lemonade and cut-up hotdogs that they made themselves, and Aunt Judy was sitting there remarking about how very wonderful this day was for her. She was feeling grateful to me. How good that felt.
So that's what I think thankfulness is to me. It's being able to share the good things you do have, be it a talent for cooking or a sunny backyard, and someone appreciating it. It's such a great feeling, they should make a holiday out of it.