A Thanksgiving Memory
Thanksgiving has long been my favorite holiday. I love the traditions that it carries in my family: the tastes of my uncle’s smoked turkey, Mama’s dressing and sweet potato casserole, and Grandma’s cornbread fried in the cast iron skillet; watching the Macy’s parade with the smell of food wafting through the air; climbing trees and romping in the leaves with cousins; stretching out for a nap after a late lunch with a football game on in the background. I love how no one is in a hurry to get anywhere and the way that we linger at the table a good while longer than usual.
I wax nostalgic about all of these special memories, and I grieve a little on the years that our holiday schedules take me away from these versions of the celebration. But of all of the traditions and memories of Thanksgiving that are so special, there is one memory that stands out.
One year when I was a teenager, my father found out that a local soup kitchen was serving a hot turkey dinner with all the fixin’s for Thanksgiving day lunch. Since our house was the gathering place for our extended family’s late lunch, my dad suggested that he and I spend Thanksgiving morning preparing and serving plates for those in need in our community. It was the first time I had been a part of something like that, and it was eye-opening and humbling for me. As I saw some of my classmates in line for food, I realized how much I took for granted. I was overwhelmed with a sense of gratitude, not in a “Thank you, God, for not making me poor” kind of way, or even in a “Thank you, God, that I can make a difference” kind of way, but more like in a “I am even more aware that we are all in this together” kind of way.
Our family’s travel schedule and changing plans with the soup kitchen meant that we never did this again on a Thanksgiving morning, but every year as I rise and prepare for my own Thanksgiving meal, I remember back to that significant moment and how it shaped my own sense of gratitude and way of looking at the world.
I am looking forward to re-creating something of that kind of moment when we gather together for our church and community Thanksgiving service and meal on November 23. I hope that as we worship and eat together, I will grow in a renewed sense of gratitude for the gifts that God has given me. Not just gifts of food and resources and health and provision, but the greater gift of being a part of something that is bigger than I am, of a life enriched by the people who are a part of it, even for just a day or a service or a mealtime.