Retailers nationwide strategize, struggling to turn a profit, pushing “Christmas shopping closer,” less than a week before “Black Friday. “Thanksgiving’s getting squeezed again this year. Most of us won’t skip the festive side of the day; food, family, and all the attendant activities, around the table and big screen TV. But the true meaning of Thanksgiving’s another story. Here’s one more. One of John Gresham’s best sellers, “Skipping Christmas,” is a compelling short story of a married couple who decided, for a variety of self-absorbing reasons, to “skip Christmas this year.” The screen adaptation of his novel, “Christmas With the Kranks,” starring Tim Allen and Jamie Lee Curtis, is a comical, yet poignant portrayal of what happens when two people, Luther and Nora Krank, forget those things that matter most, in an attempt to avoid the frenzy traditionally associated with the commercialized version of Christmas holidays. They go to great lengths-at great expense.
Few of us would consider “Skipping Thanksgiving!” Or would we? At least not outwardly. It starts inwardly. A matter of the heart. One could conceivably go through the motions of turkey dinner, pumpkin pie, “all the trimmings” and invite family and friends, yet, at the end of the day, the attitude-of-gratitude is non-existent.
What if we were to make a list of those things for which we are thankful, and then before the feast of the day commences, with those gathered around the table, invite each member to mention that for which they are most thankful. Of course, we wouldn’t want the food to get cold, so we’d have to hasten the exercise. Has your family actually considered such a venture in the past? How would it go? Risky?
Another story’s told of a disheveled elderly man huddled at the counter of a bustling truck stop, on a cold Winter’s night. Seated next to him was a burly, younger bearded man, with a chiseled looking face, and a stern exterior. The older gentleman had just ordered a rather meager meal of barley soup and crackers, while his stool mate ordered a large t-bone steak with all the trimmings. Once served, the older man paused, unceremoniously bowed his head, then began to partake of his meager fare. The burley man had watched as the older man bowed his head, then he shouted, “What are you doing old man? Giving thanks for that pitiful meal?” The older gentleman, without looking at the scoffer, simply nodded his head in the affirmative.
The younger man, who dwarfed his diminutive counterpart, glanced at his hearty t-bone steak, and bellowed aloud, “Well not me, I dive right into my food, none of that giving thanks nonsense for me.” Those within earshot of the two at the counter were taken back by the scurrilous comments of the scoffer. After a brief interlude of silence, the older man glanced at his adversary, and with a twinkle in his eye, adroitly replied, “So does my dog!”
Doubtless, there’s a myriad of things for which to be thankful, or enumerated blessings. Some divide those into two categories. First, are the “horizontal things.” That’s inanimate things we gather around us. They’re primarily tangible, and most will rust, go out-of-style, deteriorate or fall apart, and loose value sooner or later. Everything from houses, cars, and electronics, to the clothes in our closets, and storage sheds. Earthly things.
Second, are the “vertical things.” Permanent things. Those that can ultimately be attributed to a personal, infinite God, Who delights in giving us reason to be thankful. Blessings such as family, friendship, mercy, forgiveness, true love, security, and an unalterable purpose, to mention a few. Unfortunately, when our focus is solely on the “horizontal,” the “vertical” fades, becoming more obscure, or worse, forgotten. In reality, we may discover at day’s end on Thanksgiving, while our girth has expanded from our over-indulgence, yet our gratitude has shrunk, and, sadly, we have “skipped Thanksgiving again” this year. Perhaps without giving it a thought.
In 1863, Jack, one thankful turkey, escaped impending the doom of decorating President Lincoln’s Thanksgiving holiday festival table. Jack was rescued at the behest of Lincoln’s son Tad, aged ten, to spare the bird, he had befriended, and named. President Lincoln acquiesced, and issued a pardon to the chef-a tradition persisting to this day, reinstituted in 1947, by President Truman, who followed Lincoln’s example and pardoned the bird. Many grateful turkeys have retired to petting zoos, to live out their remaining fowl years. Unplucked and fat.
The 180 ton ship that set sail from Southampton, England, leaving their native soil, in 1620, with 102 souls, bulwarks of faith, after weeks of plowing through tumultuous weather and high seas, blown from their intended destination of Virginia, arrived at Plymouth, Massachusetts. After a year of unspeakable loss and tragedy, with half the original members dead, the survivors dedicated a day of Thanksgiving for His Bounty and Blessings.
Though Congress, in 1941, passed a law officially declaring the fourth Thursday in November, as America’s Thanksgiving Day, there’s no legislating the heart. That’s our domain. What we do with it’s the question. Traditions such as Thanksgiving are a blessing, intended for a time of reflection of our nearly innumerable blessings. There’s risk of banality to those who’ve lost sight of the intended purpose of this day. Going through the motion trivializes the day.
It’s a time not for just excavating the origins of this holiday, but rather engaging in a penetrating examination of our own heart. As the pilgrims of old, we should caste our belief firmly entrenched in the reality that the Beneficent God of the Old and New Testament is present in our everyday lives, even when it feels otherwise. In light of this, we’re inexcusable to “skip this day again.” It’s a choice. Psalm 33:12, reminds us, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD.” Not sentimentalism-but reality. Happy Thanksgiving! What do you think?
Mike Pyatt’s a resident of Natrona County, WY. His email’s firstname.lastname@example.org