This week we celebrate Thanksgiving with all its complicated history and familial dynamics. Nationally it is recognized as a day to remember a now debunked story of Pilgrims and Indigenous People gathering around the table together to acknowledge the harvest and good fortune that brought them together. We know now that this was not the case, our colonialism brought to the fore, the good will of a people encroached upon; not returned in kind. But, still, we celebrate.
In other years it is “over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house we go,” at least I can remember singing this with my brother in the back seat of the station wagon as we wound our way to a family get together of serious proportion. For many the tension at the table is recounted as so thick you could cut it with the carving knife. For others, not so. But, still, we celebrate.
We celebrate because we are a grateful people. Somewhere at the core of our beings there is a desire for gratitude to win out. And this year, oh – this – year, which tops the charts in most of our lives as one of the most difficult in our history, we find a way to be grateful and to celebrate. Through an out of control pandemic and the isolation we have taken to in order to protect ourselves, civil and racial unrest in response to violence in our streets, catastrophic natural disasters wrought by wind and water and fire, and an election cycle that seems like it will never be over – I list all these because there is power in naming what we are up against – AND – there is perhaps even more power in naming that we are grateful still. We are a resilient people if nothing else.
I asked you all, in light of the circumstances, to share with me some of the things you are grateful for and I want to say – WOW! The responses I received were more than I usually do upon such a request and the lists were long.
· Family – those we live with and the extended kind of several generations who we have taken to zooming with and I would guess are seeing more of than we might otherwise – the newest ones seem somehow even more a blessing in this time.
· This beautiful spit of land that we inhabit – its beaches and waterways, sunrises and sunsets, its hidden trails that wind their way from one end to the other and the ability to get out on them, the variety of birds that stop by our feeders as they pass by on their journeys north and south.
· This faith community and our connections here – may they continue to be strong and vibrant especially now – and the opportunities we create to do something constructive for the lives of others.
· Our pets who supply us with unconditional love and so much joy.
· Our health – having staved off the virus, and the fact that we have healthcare available to us.
· There was gratitude for our basic amenities because we know we are blessed to have them.
Woven into our gratitudes are the hard things, too. Some years ago, when I decided to sign my emails “with gratitude” I really thought about it. Not every query or comment is something one would be grateful for on the surface! Here is where gratitude becomes more of a practice; an intentional way of approaching life and all its conundrums. I can be grateful for the teaching that comes with the more difficult questions and observations. It is a choice. There is guidance that comes from unexpected teachers in our lives who take us down the path to greater knowing if we let them. All of this technology that we have taken up – grateful for what it provides, but grateful because it challenges us to dig deeper and continue to learn and grow in ways that keep us current with the times. There have been – are now – restrictions and rules we are asked to follow to keep us safe. No one likes to be told what to do, but can we be grateful for the thoughtfulness of our public health officials, for accommodations that make some semblance of normalcy exist in our day to day, for creative ways to answer to our needs? The truths unwrapped in the national story are tough to take, too, our potential complicity grates a bit, but I am grateful for new knowledge and the possibility of change as awareness grows; for opportunities to make amends, to build connection and community where none existed before. Gratitude can take work. The rewards are many.
Today this faith community is blessed by the welcoming of new members. May we continue to grow in faith and love together with these seekers who have joined the journey. And we are blessed by the young people in our midst – their creativity; their insights; their making a way into the future. May we leave it in such a state that they will readily take it up and carry it forward – a gift of beauty and hope. Today we are grateful for that sense of something beyond just ourselves, the power of a Universe never completely understood and always urging us on to greater discernment.
May we be ever grateful for the little things. May we purpose ourselves toward gratitude for the things that take intention and practice. May we know the love of this community and work to spread that love in our midst and beyond. May we be grateful, still.
Blessed be. Happy Thanksgiving! And Amen.