Thanksgiving Reckonings

November 22nd, 2017  |   

Walking through the Charleston Mall recently, weeks away from Thanksgiving and Christmas, I had one of those thoughts I knew, even then, I’d have to rethink. A reckoning day would surely come.

I wish Thanksgiving and Christmas would just go away. That’s what crossed my mind.

Monday was my reckoning day. It came while drinking coffee with a friend. Our conversation made me come to grips with that Mall-moment. Asking him what he would be doing for Thanksgiving, he beamed. “I’ll be driving to Pittsburgh to spend the holiday with my family.” He effervesced, telling me about how much it had always meant for him to be at the Thanksgiving table with his family.

You cannot have done church work for as long as I have without recognizing that Thanksgiving, and Christmas as well, are difficult times for a number of people, for a variety of reasons. So, in the face of whatever grief or complaint lies behind the thought of wishing Thanksgiving away, it’s understandable. I get it when I hear someone say these particular holidays are the unpleasant times when cultural, religious, patriotic, and familial expectations are foisted upon her or him.

Some 60 million people have taken to the highways and flight paths for Thanksgiving. Why? Is there some lemming-like factor at work that causes folks to leap into traffic, and a gigantic sea of heart-clogging food? Like, you know, too much isn’t enough? Or could it be a deep existential longing to be gathered with people, to belong, eating at a table with others? To just plain not be so alone?

Today a friend told me that over 60 million people are polled as being unhappy with Thanksgiving. What is it that troubles them? The excessive commercialization? Could it be some annoying presence at the gathering, after a hectic, tiring journey? A wacky uncle; a family member who voted for Trump; a slobbering drunk; a couple who argue with one another at the table; a person who uses the occasion to argue that boys should go to the men’s room and girls go to the their own room to pee; a relative who brings a huge, slobbering dog to the table? It might be even more serious, like having to be around the table with someone who has been the cause of past abuse and pain. 

We certainly have the right to choose our dinner partners. We can gather with “like-minded” folks, “kindred spirits,” and enjoy a warm comradery. We can shun the superfluous indulgence that invites a gluttonous appetite. We can dine with vegetarians, vegans, or eat Tofurky with folks who wish that our president would pardon all turkeys, not just one. Or we can just eat alone.

Wherever we spend Thanksgiving, I do believe we are challenged to offer thanks. Genuine gratitude will come, as it so often does, not only in the happiest times, but also as strange as it may seem, in the rough-and-tumble realities that confront each one of us personally and in the larger world in which we live.

So, dear friends, eat well and be ready to entertain a grateful heart, finding a feast wherever you spend Thanksgiving Day.

Entry Filed under: Fig Tree Notes Archives

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Nations will hammer swords into plows, their spears into sickles, there shall be no more training for war. Each person will sit under his or her fig tree in peace.
Micah 4:3 - 4