Every year when we get the families together on Thanksgiving, we take a lot for granted. For as long ago as I can remember, Thanksgivings were always the same. They were wonderful, but predictable.
You fill the house with the incredible smell of roasting turkey, dressing, pumpkin pie, cranberry bread, squash and let the aromas mingle and slowly waft out of the kitchen, tickling your nose with the temptation of the savory indulgence in the feast that awaits at dinnertime.
You expect parades in the morning and football in the afternoon, and a discussion of Black Friday sales in the evening, as everyone passes around Christmas lists in preparation for the next holiday in the line.
You pack the house as tight as it can be with all of your relatives. The peaceful calm of morning cooking gives ways to ringing doorbells, barking dogs and the cacophony of voices, young and old voices, all talking at once, sharing stories, joking around, catching up on their lives and simply enjoying each other’s company. It was not uncommon at our family get-togethers to cram almost two dozen people in some pretty small abodes. But nobody complained. We were together. That was all that mattered.
It’s my favorite holiday, because, except for the bounteous meal, it is all about being with the people you love, your family. Just being together is what it is all about. It’s like the first Thanksgiving, when everyone came together to work for a common purpose and in the process learned to appreciate the camaraderie.
But God has a greater purpose in everything he does, and I never cease to be amazed at his bountiful and unexpected mystery unfolds as he lets us see an ever greater part of his plan with each passing day. We human beings think we’ve got this life thing pretty much down pat. We have a plan, or think we do, and then find out what He has in store for us is completely different.
Every year at Thanksgiving I find myself being grateful for a lot of things, or at least I say I do. But then a pandemic arrives and I am made to realize how even the most basic experiences are no longer within my grasp. I am glad for so many things, but it’s only a fraction of the things I ever thank God for.
Yes, food will still be plentiful, but we’ve gone through a year when we no longer take anything at the grocery store for granted.
Yes, we have the funds to eat a glorious meal this year, but know so many people who are pinched during this pandemic and do not have that luxury.
Yes, parades and football are back, but for so much of the year these seemingly simple pleasures were in doubt and almost did not happen. They still aren’t the same as they once were.
Yes, Black Friday is still the day after Thanksgiving, but the expectations are different. Stores are spreading out their sales, and nobody really feels like crowding together to fight for a new TV most of us really don’t need anyway.
Yes, we will communicate with our families on Thanksgiving, but this time it will be in small groups or via Zoom. It’s still great to see them, but it’s just not the same. For now, we are lucky that so many of us are alive.
It’s been a long year and winter threatens to be harsher than ever, what with the virus raging ever more out of control. And yet, as depressing as all of this change is, it makes us appreciate even more what we have.
This year at Thanksgiving, when we all pause to say grace and to give thanks, somehow it will mean more than ever. We will all be a little gladder for what we have and long even more deeply for what we used to have and can’t wait to get back to. How odd we humans are in that the more we don’t have something the more we miss it.
I would not dare to understand what God has in store for all of us, but I never stop marveling at the how he reveals himself to us in ways I never would have expected. It’s part of the reason I am more drawn to Him than ever, and one of the reasons I especially appreciate this GivingThanks Day in 2020.