Like most people, when I think about Thanksgiving, a million thoughts jump to mind: perhaps, a morning Turkey Trot 5k; the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade; football on the TV in the background for much of the day; and I can’t leave out, mouthwatering turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes.
Someone else may point to cranberry sauce, green bean casserole or even pumpkin pie covered in a mountain of whipped cream. Maybe even the Pilgrims and the Native Americans who celebrated the Pilgrim’s first harvest in the New World in 1621. Or the thousands of U.S. troops scattered across the world on this Thanksgiving.
However, when I take a step back and focus on the day and its meaning, my thoughts and memories take on a deeper and more meaningful perspective.
Here’s what comes to mind:
–I remember how my mother used to ask me every Thanksgiving morning to shred and rip up the bread for her homemade stuffing. She made it a game. She called it “my job.” I’m sure she thought nothing of it, but it soon became a tradition. As small as it was, it gave me confidence and made me feel important.
–I remember how we didn’t have a lot of extra money, but my mother somehow found a way to fill our table with turkey, potatoes, gravy, a million different types of vegetables. I would walk away from the table full beyond belief.
–I remember coming home one Wednesday night before Thanksgiving tired and walking into an empty house. Where was my wife? Where were my kids? I could feel the stress from my work week still bottled up inside of me. I looked down at our kitchen table to see the hand-made turkey and pilgrim placemats that my kids must have spent the day making. Each of their names was scrawled on one of the placemats. There was even one for me: “We love you daddy.” Now if that doesn’t turn your cold, cold heart into a grateful one, nothing will.
–I remember finishing up an exam right before one Thanksgiving break in college. I walked back to my dorm a mess. I was frustrated and overwhelmed. I seemed to be behind in everything. I was really struggling to find my place. I was working all the time, to help pay for college and keep my loans as low as possible, and my grades were suffering. To top it off, when I got back to my room, most of my friends were long gone, some having left a day or even two days earlier. I packed up my bags in a mad rush, trying my best to come up with a response to give my parents when they asked how I was doing. Since I hadn’t eaten in what felt like days, I quickly ran to the nearest convenience store to see what I could grab. Of course, I ran into the professor who just given me the “Test from Hell.” The look of dejection on my face must have given my thoughts away. He told me to hang in there and that I probably hadn’t done as poorly as I thought I had. He suggested I step away for a few days and come back full speed on Monday. I’ve never forgotten how his few words of encouragement changed my outlook. He could have told me that he didn’t really care. He could have passed by without even saying hello. Instead, he took an interest in me and passed me a life preserver when I needed it the most. I really believe I was on the brink, the precipice. A bad grade on that test and who knows, I could have finished up that semester and given up my dream. And oh yea, I ended up getting a hard-earned ‘A’ in the class.
–I remember my wife and my first Thanksgiving together. We were young. We didn’t have a lot of money and we really didn’t care. We drove with excitement first to my parents and then to hers. It’s trite, it’s a cliché, but the truth was that we were happy and in love. We didn’t care about anything else. We had each other.
—I remember my daughter and sons during one recent Thanksgiving, rolling their eyes, but still holding hands with each other and going one after the other telling us what they were grateful for that Thanksgiving. They mocked and teased my wife and I, but you could tell that they still appreciated the tradition and joy of being together.
I’ll think about these memories and many more this year when we sit down to celebrate as a family. I’ll celebrate with a grateful heart for all that God has blessed us.