On Thanksgiving Day, we think about all the things for which we are grateful, all the many blessings we’ve received. Many of us gather around a table filled with an enormous turkey and a dozen side dishes and accompaniments, football playing in the background, surrounded by family and friends. It’s a feast day, a celebration of our founders, a holiday from our regular workday.
Here there were three generations of women preparing the food, with the guys helping out as needed. There was plenty to eat and Pocahontas on the television in lieu of football. There were calls and texts as we sent warm holiday greetings to other family members.
Making the dressing
A work of art in progress
Yet for some, that’s not how the day went. Maybe there was an empty chair at the table for the first time. Maybe there wasn’t enough money to buy all the fixings for the feast. Maybe someone drank too much and things were said or done that will be hard to forgive. Maybe you lived too far away from your family to be able to celebrate with them. Maybe you were working and today was no different from any other day. Maybe the dinner you worked so hard to prepare was a disaster and nothing lived up to your expectations. Maybe your family is more than a little dysfunctional and holidays are completely unpredictable.
It’s hard to be thankful in these situations – to find blessings in the midst of pain and hardship. In fact, it’s easy to slip into resentment, bitterness, aching, and longing. Where is the good in difficult moments? Is it really possible to be thankful regardless of circumstances? Should we even try to be grateful when there doesn’t seem to be any reason to be? Why?
The answer is yes – whether you can believe it in this moment or not. If we never felt the bitter chill of winter, would we rejoice when we feel the hot summer sun on our skin? If our throats were never parched, would we experience the refreshment of a cool drink of water? Would it be right to avoid loving someone just so we’d never have to experience the loss when we look at their empty place at the dinner table?
If your Thanksgiving Day was just the way you like it, if you’re feeling happy and content because your belly is full of turkey, dressing, and pumpkin pie and your team won the game, I am so happy for you! But if today was one of the longest days of your life and some of your meal was overcooked or undercooked and your kids have been throwing up all day and you never want to see your crazy uncle again and if you can’t stop crying because your son or daughter is at a military base somewhere far away and you wish you could have just one more Thanksgiving with your loved one, my thoughts and prayers are with you.
Remember you are never alone.