by Dr. Mary Manz Simon
Did Thanksgiving ever sneak up on you?
That’s happening to me.
I should have known the holiday was coming. After all, Bing Crosby was crooning “White Christmas” as I wove through crowded store aisles. The jellied cranberry sauce shelf and frozen turkeys were on sale.
And even though I’ve bought the ingredients for pumpkin bread, I keep asking myself, “Why doesn’t it feel like Thanksgiving?” Have you ever asked this question?
I’ve paused numerous times to thank God. I’m truly grateful for the blessings around me. I’m going through the same motions I do every November, but perhaps that’s just it: there’s a disconnect between the motions and the meaning. I long for a sense of “Thanksgivingness” to spill over into these next days.
If I want my heart to explode with the depth of feeling that is buried deep inside, I need to be more aware and actively engaged in moments of gratitude. I’ll need to be intentional about opportunities to experience and express thankfulness. So here’s my plan:
I can see the blessing in grandchildren who leave their screens to tell me about school. A dentist who fits me into the schedule. A trustworthy neighbor who will collect the mail this weekend. How quickly the same-old, same-old Thanksgiving has grown to become Friendsgiving! Blessings add up as my heart starts to fill with people who matter.
Express my gratitude to God by showing kindness to others.
I open the door for the shopper trying to corral three children. Next week, I’ll find ten minutes to run those bags of books down to the resale shop. I’ll write a note to a friend who is going through a painful recovery. Won’t she be surprised to see a letter carrier deliver an actual piece of mail?
Honestly, that’s a pretty pathetic list. Although it’s a start, I want to make the effort to reach out more often with compassion. In my head, I know the more good we do in God’s name, the better we feel about praising Him. Making the head-heart connection should naturally make caring about others a natural response to seeing needs.
Infuse traditions with “praise pauses” of gratitude to God.
Perhaps we can start new traditions this year: Facetime distant family members for the mealtime prayer. Instead of stuffing the cornucopia with fruit, everyone can write down his or her blessings to fill the centerpiece. And late on Thanksgiving, we can turn the after-feast walk around the neighborhood into a prayer walk, by stopping to pray in front of each neighbor’s house. Pausing to focus on reasons to be thankful will create memories with meaning for me and all our guests.
I’m excited about these possibilities.
I’m optimistic that these action points will move Thanksgiving from being merely a national holiday on the calendar, to a time with personal significance. Being intentional about thankfulness on a daily basis might even help me view the holiday as more than a “last gasp” before Christmas.
Plus, if any of these ideas turn into traditions, Thanksgiving will never sneak up on me again!
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