To Be Thankful

Thanksgiving is over now, but it lingers on through Black Friday sales, turkey leftovers, and football games. Christmas decorations have been up in the stores since Labor Day, so any seemingly Thanksgiving-oriented displays disappeared by midnight Thursday. The same, of course, will happen on Christmas night. Valentine’s Day cards, candy, and lingerie will be on store shelves before that day ends. At least many people who put up Christmas lights at home wait until New Year’s Day to take down their displays, and some even wait until the Day of the Epiphany, when the Christmas season officially ends. I am particularly thankful for those folks.

But back to Thanksgiving. At least on one day of the year is a reminder to all of us that we have much to be thankful for. Despite our nation’s cracks as evidenced by the last elections and increasing crime, violence, and political maneuvering, we are still a nation. Opposing forces haven’t invaded us. We still have families, friends, and our four-footed family members. 

We have people who care for each other, even when the other is a perfect stranger. We have first responders and service personnel who help when we are in trouble or danger, and they do it willingly. There are medical service workers who care for us on holidays as surely as on regular days because they are called to be helpful. We have volunteers who run food banks (which depend on volunteer contributions) and thrift stores. We have those who work on Thanksgiving Day to feed others who dine out on that day. We also have those who work in soup kitchens on Thanksgiving and other days to provide meals for those for whom a hot, home-cooked meal is a necessity rather than a luxury. 

Many people are suffering from chronic or fatal diseases, and for whom this may be the last time to give thanks with those they love. We are thankful for the caregivers and respite workers who care for them. We remember those who are elderly, alone, suffering homelessness, mental illness, newly diagnosed or newly bereaved, and those overcome by daily life and hopelessness. We pray for them regularly, and sometimes we get involved in ministries where we can help those for whom we pray. 

Although Thanksgiving Day is over, being thankful isn’t something to relegate to just once a year. We talk about being grateful but do our actions show it? My Education for Ministry (EfM) group discussed this during our last session. One of our members told the story of seeing someone in a grocery checkout line pay for another’s groceries, in addition to their own. We all agreed at how wonderful a gift that was, and as I think about it now, the act produced two instances of thanksgiving. One was the person receiving the gift of groceries, which probably included basic things plus perhaps things for Thanksgiving dinner. The other was the thanksgiving of the giver whose heart was touched and who could provide for someone else. 

Thanksgiving should become practice – more than one day of overindulgence in turkey with all the trimmings and multiple desserts, family games and televised football, or even driving to celebrate with family and friends once a year. We’ve all heard this, though repeating it cannot hurt. 

This year I’m grateful for my family, my friends, both living and deceased, my trailer home, a cabinet with food in it for me and my two fur-kids, heat, electricity, the internet that keeps me connected with so many, my EfM group, my faith, music, books that make me think, and the people who read my musings. I’m also grateful for my companion cat, Gandhi, who passed over the Rainbow Bridge this past Wednesday morning after 15+ years together with his brother and sister-cousin. 

I keep saying I will work on being thankful more than one day a year, and for the most part, I succeed most days, but nearly isn’t quite enough. My goal is to be thankful and to remind God that I am every day, several times a day. I can call it a New Year’s resolution since Sunday marks the beginning of a new church year, and it seems to fit. 

Thank you for being part of this journey of mine.

Image: The Thankful Poor, (1894), by Henry Ossawa Taylor (1839-1937). From a private collection. Found at Wikimedia Commons.

Linda Ryan is a mentor for an Education for Ministry group, an avid reader, a Baroque and Renaissance music lover, and a fumbling knitter. She keeps the blog Jericho’s Daughter. She lives with her three cats near Phoenix, Arizona.

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