Thanksgiving Giving

by Peter Wallace, © 2007

Thanksgiving is coming up pretty soon. While the story of the first Thanksgiving we were taught in elementary school wasn’t exactly right, it is nice to set aside one day of the year for contemplations of gratitude.

Granted, much of Thanksgiving day is spent frantically trying to prepare a meal, driving over rivers and through woods, watching football games, and trying very hard to tolerate that one relative that puts you over the edge. But, it seems that there is a moment at almost every Thanksgiving table when through a mealtime prayer, or a few words from the leader of the family, everyone does focus on thankfulness.

Perhaps it was 30 years ago now, when I enjoyed Thanksgiving dinner with my in-law family for what may have been the first time. That family is large, and every meal began with “Bless us oh Lord…” which is kind of a standard Catholic prayer. One of my sisters-in-law, who was probably 14 at the time, asked for the opportunity to say the Thanksgiving blessing. Here’s what she said: “Rub a dub, dub, thanks for the grub.”

It was as if time had stopped for a moment. All eyes turned to my father-in-law to see if he would blow his top or not. What I saw in his expression was this: “That was pretty darn funny, but I can’t let on that I feel that way, so I’d better keep this stern look on my face.”

Needless to say, the actual grace followed, and a good meal, and a good time was had by all. You see, that family really likes each other, and really are grateful for their time together. Thanksgiving day puts a focus on it, but each one of them is thankful every day for the memories of their childhood, and the times they still spend together as adults.

It’s funny, in a way, that we give gifts at Christmas, Hannaka, and the other holidays that gravitate around the winter solstice, but not at Thanksgiving, which has the word “giving” right in it.

Perhaps the things we can give at Thanksgiving aren’t the kinds of things we can wrap up. Maybe, for instance, going out of the way to bury a hatchet (figuratively, please) with that hard to handle relative would be a nice gift. Maybe missing a quarter of the football game in exchange for making an older relative feel important by having a nice conversation would be a good Thanksgiving gift.

Having been a veteran of many Thanksgiving morning road trips to the Fox Valley, it occurs to me that a nice gift might be to drive courteously, and on the return trip, soberly.

Thanksgiving is most known anymore for over eating, and as the gateway to the shopping season. It can be a lot more than that if we take the effort to be actively thankful, and express it to the people we care for. And even if the turkey is a little dry, show some gratitude for the effort that went into the meal preparation.

Do some nice things on Thanksgiving. Express your gratitude with some gifts of your time and thoughtfulness. When you go to bed that night, you’ll feel something besides full.

It isn’t hard being green. What’s hard is to see the big picture and to realize that science and politics sometimes get too cozy with each other.

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