Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. It often gets overlooked. I can bump into Christmas at stores while I am still wearing my summer clothes and looking for school supplies for my son. While shopping, I have found a couple of Thanksgiving items smashed into a small area between the Halloween and Christmas decorations. Black Friday begins on Thanksgiving and is almost its own season now. We got Thanksgiving over, now let’s go full on into Christmas. Except Thanksgiving really isn’t over. The best Thanksgiving season is the one that lingers and weaves its ways into my heart and through the seasons of the year.
When I was a child, Thanksgiving was thrilling. Days off from school. Going to Northern Minnesota to visit my grandparents. The crunch of cold snow under our feet as we finally lumbered in with all our bags after a six-hour car ride. The warmth of their home. The warmth of their love. Watching my grandparents, both with aprons on, butter the turkey and put it in the oven at 5am. Listening to them speaking Finn to each other as they continued to prepare the meal. The sleepy house slowly coming alive with savory smells and the delicious anticipation of the time spent together. The feelings and memories then packed up in my heart and taken out into the world with me. And the thanksgiving goes on.
Thanksgiving goes beyond a day. Beyond a season. It is rooted in gratitude. It is grown and cultivated in awareness. Thanksgiving can become a companion on the journey. Willie Nelson says, “When I started counting my blessings, my whole life turned around”. And Dietrich Bonhoeffer reminds us that “In ordinary life, we hardly realize that we receive a great deal more than we give, and it is only with gratitude that life becomes rich”.
I think about my own life and I am overwhelmed by gratitude. My life is easier because of ordinary things I sometimes take for granted. Running water, warm home, working toilets, weekly garbage service, mail delivery….the list is endless. And then I think of the people, love, and experiences I have for which there is so much gratitude. When I stop and think about how much I have, I feel such a sense of thanksgiving. During tough times, this thanksgiving acts as a reminder of that is still good. It keeps me going forward and helps me past raw emotions. This gratitude also paves the way to make the ordinary into the extraordinary. As Buddha says, “If we see the miracle of a single flower clearly, our whole life will change”. This is thanksgiving.
If done right, Thanksgiving can’t be edged out by Black Friday. It can’t be relegated to a small shelf between Halloween and Christmas. Thanksgiving spills out into it all. It is everywhere waiting to be recognized—waiting to turn a life around. Thanksgiving is in the memories of a Northern Minnesota celebration. It is in the daily life of chores and obligations. It is in the quiet of a new day and the noise of traffic. Thanksgiving is in the hand waiting to be held, the multiplication table that is finally understood, the phone call that finally came or doesn’t come at all, a dog’s gentle nudge to be pet, new beginnings, or a fresh brewed pot of coffee. Thanksgiving comforts us in our sorrows and lifts daily life into joy. Thanksgiving is ultimately the sacredness of life.
Henry David Thoreau says it well –“I am grateful for what I am and have. My Thanksgiving is perpetual. And Charlie Brown echoes his sentiments when he says, “What if, today we were grateful for everything?” This is Thanksgiving.