When Thanksgiving is mentioned, many people think of food, which has special meaning in my house because my wife loves to cook. Given how well and how much she cooks, if I didn’t exercise almost daily I’d probably look like the Stay-Puft marshmallow man from the movie Ghostbusters.
So it’s no surprise that Thanksgiving is her favorite holiday… but it’s not because of the food. While she enjoys the preparation and the feast, she loves Thanksgiving for what it is not.
There are no presents. The holiday isn’t based on a military battle, a turning point in political history or a major scientific achievement. In fact, the day is not set aside to commemorate anything man-made at all.
Instead, the day is based on one very clear notion — the giving of thanks…
The original feast was held in the autumn of 1621 to give thanks for the first successful harvest. The meal was a celebration of the bounty that was bestowed upon the Pilgrims and they invited the neighboring Indians to join them.
The Pilgrims were not celebrating their ability to till the land or plant the seed. They were joyful that the combination of what they could do and what they couldn’t control — weather, soil, etc. — resulted in a bountiful harvest.
Like most of the population, I don’t do a lot of farming, but I still enjoy a tremendous bounty in my life that stems from a combination of what I can do or control and that which is beyond me. The struggle is in pausing long enough to take the time required to appreciate fully and to be thankful for, what I’ve been given.
In this respect, the Pilgrims were lucky. Their Thanksgiving did not include driving, flying or otherwise traipsing from one family member’s home to another. They simply gathered in one place and gave thanks that their crops had grown. Today things are a bit more complicated but remembering the people and blessings that have enriched our lives doesn’t have to be.
A Good Idea
While recently dining with friends, we discussed our plans for Thanksgiving. As usual, my family will make the trek to a relative’s home about 500 miles away and then cover another 300 miles to see a dear friend before heading home. Long-time readers know that I love a good road trip, and there’s no better reason for one than spending time with family and friends.
Our dinner companions told us they celebrate Thanksgiving at home, typically with just a guest or two, which was surprising, because these people meet the world with open hearts. They are engaged in many activities involving their daughters, their church and their community.
Even though their extended families live far away, it seemed strange to me that our friends would choose to gather with such a small group. Then they explained how they celebrate and it all made sense.
Starting right after Halloween, they decorate for fall, turning their home into the Martha Stewart version of a pumpkin patch, with the requisite gourds and colorful arrangements of leaf-adorned materials.
But something else in their home plays an important role during this holiday season — a blackboard.
It’s not just any blackboard, it’s a four-foot by eight-foot framed blackboard mounted sideways on a wall, as if it were a full-length mirror. In the days of November leading up to Thanksgiving, everyone who passes through the home is asked to write something for which they are thankful on the board. It can be small or large, fleeting or permanent.
People of all ages and sizes put their notes on the board, and then on Thanksgiving Day the family reviews the entries, taking special note of the events, things and people for whom they are thankful.
What a great idea!
I’m spending this holiday with family and friends for whom I’m truly grateful but there are many other people for whom I’m grateful that I won’t get to see. These people — in states across the nation — are on my personal blackboard.
They are joined by descriptions of opportunities and other blessings that have come my way. The old saws of health and happiness make it onto the board but as well as very specific items, like sailing with my family last spring, the recent growth in our business and my son’s travels out west last summer.
Thanksgiving is an entire day dedicated to looking outside of ourselves, recognizing what has been given to us throughout the last year and throughout our lives. No presents, no gimmicks… no politics.
What’s on your blackboard?