Rector's Ramblings November 22, 2017
Fr. Tom’s Thanksgiving Survival Enjoyment Guide
- Give thanks! It sounds odd, right? Isn’t Thanksgiving about giving thanks? Yes, it is! But, I’m surprised at how many people are decidedly less than thankful in this season. Maybe it’s the prospect of cooking for a huge group. Or, gathering the family is not your idea of a good time for one reason or another. Or, it’s a difficult holiday because a beloved family member isn’t going to be with you this year. There are lots of reasons we feel less than thankful on Thanksgiving. But don’t limit your thanks to the grace before you cut the turkey. Practice making this a week of Thanksgiving, noting all the things you can recognize as blessing, even when they are mixed up with some elements that feel like less than blessing. Every day should start with a prayer of thanksgiving when we open our eyes; I hope we’re grateful for another day to walk the earth. Remember to be thankful for everything you can recognize, and it will be a meaningful holiday.
- Talk about religion and politics. No, really. One of the things that is tearing this country apart is our inability to talk to one another about the really important things. If we can’t have calm, loving conversations with those in our own families, then what hope do we have when it comes to strangers and neighbors? I know, I know, some families are the worst setting for such talk, but at the end of the day, we need to understand where others are coming from, to truly hear what they feel and think, and acknowledge it for what it is. You don’t have to let others change your mind, but at least listen to them. Likewise, you can share your thoughts without needing to change their minds. Understanding is the key, not winning. God will move in and through us when we can discuss and debate with open minds and loving hearts. And besides, there’s plenty to talk about since last Thanksgiving. The conversation should be lively!
- Admit that you might be wrong. This one is really related to the one above, but I recently heard a theologian make this suggestion when reflecting on humility. Most of us tend to talk as though we have the final word or the most pointed insight. While that may be true, and we might be right about everything, we don’t need to act like it. A helpful practice might be to share your opinion, and then tag on the end, “but I might be wrong.” Because you might. Unless you are the originator of the idea or the pioneer in a field of thought, chances are someone knows more about the subject than you do. Since so much of our world is subjective, even some aspects of science, finance, and tax law are debatable, don’t pretend otherwise. Interpretation is everything, so let’s be honest with those we talk to and admit we might be wrong. Take the high road…and the last drumstick if they give you grief.
- Don’t make the cook do dishes. So if you have a primary cook in your household, and they go all out for Thanksgiving, don’t make them do the dishes, too. Either do it yourself, if you weren’t cooking, or put the kids and grandkids to work. Those football games might be calling you, but you can get the dishes done pretty quickly if you work at it and you have some help. And be sure to praise the cook, even if the gravy is lumpy. It’s not easy to have eight dishes going at the same time. If you don’t help, you don’t complain. First rule of Thanksgiving.
- Be kind to others. This is particularly aimed at those who serve us on Thanksgiving, if we eat in a restaurant or use a caterer. We tend to take for granted that there will be people there to serve us whenever we need it. But anyone who gives up Thanksgiving with their family has earned a bit more praise and gratuity than a normal meal. I know you know this one, but sometimes we forget in the heat of the moment. If you know you’re going to be in a restaurant, you can even write a thank you note to your server beforehand, into which you can insert an additional special gift. The same thing goes for those who work essential jobs on Thanksgiving as we’re traveling; gas station attendants, toll booth workers, and responders. I grew up with a father who worked for the electric company at a power plant. They all had to take their turn working holidays so the lights would stay on. An extra measure of kindness goes a long way.
- Don’t go shopping. Building off number five, retail is non-essential work. While there may be a handful of folks who want to work on Thanksgiving for one reason or another, I am quite sure that most of the folks at box stores and malls on Thanksgiving do not want to be there. I personally think that shopping for “stuff” on Thanksgiving Day, the day we set aside to be thankful for what we have, borders on sinful. It is a derivative of the sin of gluttony. Our bargain shopping is not so important that we should take away from the family time that others enjoy and crave. I am disappointed that so many stores have decided to open on Thanksgiving, and I hope more stores will see the light and end the practice, as some have done in the last year or two. Even Friday shopping should be done with an admission of what we really need and what we’re really thankful for. If we’re doing Christmas shopping, fine, but always remember that “stuff” for the sake of stuff, even if it’s a good deal on sale, is not what life is about. People would rather have our time and attention than another sweater. Just sayin’.
- Take a time out. A couple of years ago there was a social media selfie craze as people stole away to the bathroom during Thanksgiving dinner to get a little quiet time. People would take their picture in front of the mirror, capturing looks of shock, horror, boredom, frustration, and the like. It was funny. But the truth is, if some of the above things aren’t going well, we might just need to take a break. If that’s the case, don’t hesitate to take five in the bathroom or go for a walk. If there’s a dog in the house, convince the host (or your spouse) that it just HAS to go for a walk. You can get a good twenty to thirty minutes out of that one. And naps are always appropriate on Thanksgiving. Even though tryptophan is not really the cause of our Thanksgiving sleepiness (science!), you can still use the excuse because most of your relatives won’t know that bit of trivia. So even if you have to fake it for a bit, closing your eyes while still overhearing Aunt Edna regale the group with her bridge club exploits, it’s almost as good as a real nap. Trust me on this one.
- Do something for someone in need. On a day when so many of us get to enjoy a feast, loading our tables with more food that some families see in a week, do something, anything to help the less fortunate. Take food to a food pantry or a shelter; make donations to ministries that do. Many of you have already supported our Thanksgiving Basket drive (thank you!). These things are important. And don’t forget those who are lonely on Thanksgiving. The feast of fellowship that some families enjoy is much different than those who do not have family close by or find themselves alone on Thanksgiving. Invite those folks to join you, at least for dessert. It could mean more than you will ever know. You can also fix plates for elderly neighbors or shut ins – again, even a piece of pie can mean a lot.
- Do watch the football (or the parade). …if that’s your family’s thing. Some families have trouble distinguishing which of the rituals on Thanksgiving is the most important. Sometimes the football is an intergenerational event, passed down from parent to child. It brings back memories of games past and creates new memories. The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade is similar. It’s a tradition that just has to happen in some families or it doesn’t feel like Thanksgiving. Find ways to make room for the cooking, eating, cleaning, and all the rest of these traditions. They all have to fit together somehow. But, don’t let the football naysayers ruin it for the fans. It’s a part of the magic of the holiday.
- Give thanks! Yes, it’s the same as number one because it’s just that important. Give thanks for whatever the day brings. Give thanks for the people you share it with, even Aunt Edna and her bridge, and Uncle Larry and his conspiracy theories. Give thanks for the food and the creation that offers itself to us, seemingly without end, although we know better. Give thanks for our roofs, our china, and our linens. Give thanks for the memories that come flooding back; thanks for the recipes and the dishes we hold dear. Give thanks for our abundance that is almost without measure. Thanksgiving is a day to remember that God is good. God is indeed good, friends.
Accept, O Lord, our thanks and praise for all that you have
done for us. We thank you for the splendor of the whole
creation, for the beauty of this world, for the wonder of life,
and for the mystery of love.
We thank you for the blessing of family and friends, and for
the loving care which surrounds us on every side.
We thank you for setting us at tasks which demand our best
efforts, and for leading us to accomplishments which satisfy
and delight us.
We thank you also for those disappointments and failures
that lead us to acknowledge our dependence on you alone.
Above all, we thank you for your Son Jesus Christ; for the
truth of his Word and the example of his life; for his steadfast
obedience, by which he overcame temptation; for his dying,
through which he overcame death; and for his rising to life
again, in which we are raised to the life of your kingdom.
Grant us the gift of your Spirit, that we may know him and
make him known; and through him, at all times and in all
places, may give thanks to you in all things. Amen.