Many people in America revere the holiday known as Thanksgiving. It’s been fed to us (literally) since our birth. If you grew up in the US, it is unlikely that you escaped a role in the inevitable Thanksgiving play performed on the Elementary School stage by a cast of pilgrims, turkeys, and Native Americans. After all, the heart-warming story formed the basis for our version of American history. (I’m sure the Native Americans would have scripted it differently).
So from that idiosyncratic narrative, the Thanksgiving tradition emerged.
Families converge on Thanksgiving Day around a feast: traditionally Turkey and dressing, cranberry sauce and a cornucopia of sides and desserts. Thanksgiving practices then become more unique to each family.
Some families formally converse around the things/people for whom they are thankful. Other families eat while watching college football. Still others plan their Black Friday Dash.
In other words, if you asked 20 Americans the purpose of Thanksgiving you might get a myriad of answers.
Is it to commemorate an historical moment in time?
Is it to bring families together around a hearty table?
Is it a time to reflect on those for which we are grateful?
Is it a time for good football?
Or, for some, is it all of the above?
This week, as we were dividing up the Thanksgiving dishes, my daughter told me about a woman she had met, named Edna. Because of developmental delays, and intense social anxiety, Edna had never left her parent’s care. She was able to meet her own self care needs, but was limited in social interaction. Edna’s parents, now both deceased, were no longer there to fill the emotional void they left behind. Her world now revolved around self care and loneliness. My daughter wondered how Edna would be spending Thanksgiving. She asked if Edna could spend it with us.
My heart both broke and sung at the same time as I pondered this woman’s isolation while marveling at the depths of my daughter’s heart.
I started wondering about those people for whom Thanksgiving was just another in an endless drudgery of repeating days: People with mental illness, homelessness, the depressed, the anxious, those living in poverty.
When acknowledging the over-abundance of those less fortunate than I, sadness began to creep into my heart like an unattended ivy until I could no longer stem the tears. Even as I cried, I knew in my heart, that my tears meant nothing to them. But they weren’t for them. My tears erupted from a place of understanding of my own blindness.
So…you are, by now, saying, “Angie! Why bring us down on such a Wonderful day?”
My answer is twofold.
Sometimes, to be truly thankful, you must understand how blessed you really are. It is so easy for all of us to look at bumps in our lives, bemoaning our our misfortunes. We feel cheated when something doesnt go exactly our way. We cant see the problems of others if we remain self absorbed in our own.
When we take a moment…just a moment…to really think about the reality of other’s situations, thankfulness becomes an epiphany rather than a perfunctory act.
Secondly, we all…
Everyone of us…
Have the capacity to help those less unfortunate year round…not just at Thanksgiving.
What can you do?
- Donate to a shelter that houses families
- Volunteer 1 day a week…or a month to organizations that help the homeless
- Volunteer in a soup kitchen
- Mentor a child
- Be a foster parent
- Etc etc etc
There are so many ways to give of yourself to others. Whatever cause touches your heart…there is a way to help. Do what works for you.
This week’s challenge is to examine all the blessings in your life. Let the realization of your bounty fill your heart.
Then you can truly give thanks.