If you live in the United States, you know Thanksgiving is this Thursday. A national holiday where we gather with family and friends and sit down to a HUGE meal to talk, reminisce, take a post-turkey meal nap and maybe watch the brain-numbing lineup of televised football games. Some people may break away to go to the mall to make their first Christmas purchases of the season.
Oh, and did I say anything about it being a day of expressing thanks? That actually should have been the first thing on the list, but it seems to have taken a backseat to the other items I named. Many people just consider Thanksgiving to be the kick-off day to Christmas (like a one-day advent celebration) and post-season college and professional football playoffs. Or it’s just a day to get off work, overeat, and sleep in.
Passing the acorn
On Thanksgiving it is our family’s tradition to pass a little acorn (or some other seasonal, commemorative item) around the table and say one thing they’re thankful for. (It seems to help if they have something in their hands they can hold onto when thinking and talking.) But I’m going to change it up this year. (My prerogative since I’m the manager of the home and the official event planner.)
Tweaking the thankfulness focus
This year, instead of having everyone proclaim what they’re thankful for—good health, family, friends, good grades, opportunities, etc.—I’m going to ask that they name a person in their life they are grateful for. (So as not to box the kids into choosing me or the engineer or a grandparent who is present at the table, I’ll have them pick out someone we might not know, like an instructor, mentor or special friend.) I’m going to ask them: For whom are you thankful? I’ll give them the heads up time to think about it, first, before the table’s set. Coming up with one special person may not be as easy as it seems.
Who would you name?
Better yet, who would name you?
Ahh, now there’s a tense question. Who might name you as someone they’re thankful for, and why?
Give them something they'll really remember
This might sound really arrogant, but I keep a box of all of the notes or letters someone has sent to me, thanking me for something special I’ve done for them. I mean really thanking me. Not just the usual “Thanks for the gift” or “Thanks for Your Thoughtfulness” notes. I mean the really special ones where the sender spent time penning in a special note just to me, naming what they were so grateful for. How I affected their life for the better. How they’ll never forget what I said or did for them.
Like the beautiful, lengthy poem the psychiatric patient wrote to me on the fly while he eavesdropped on a spiritual conversation I had with another patient. It walloped my heart so hard after I left the barred and locked hospital unit and read it that I slumped against the wall and bawled my eyes out, overcome by how God had chosen to use me as a vessel to give hope to this hurting man. When I touched the fragile line between genius and mental breakdown. One of the most humbling experiences of my life.
Like the card a friend sent me saying how much she loved and appreciated me because I allowed her to be, well, her. That I could listen non-judgmentally and in empathy. How she could trust me with her heart and painful secrets.
Or the thank you note from a friend telling me how much she appreciates that we make her feel like a member of our family and include her in our family events. Not hard for me to do since she has a heart that never stops loving and giving, and she’s like a sister to me. (But she recently moved back to Georgia so this Thanksgiving I’m mourning my big loss.)
And the card sent to me by a young mother (who was my age at the time), thanking me for orchestrating a time of fasting and prayer for her brain cancer-ridden toddler that resulted in a medical miracle. Actually, all I did was respond to the Lord’s leading to do that, and He answered magnificently. (Another humbling experience.)
Those are the kind of letters I save in my special box. The ones that let me know that I made a difference in someone’s life; that I led them to the Lord. That I offered them His grace.
That I did what I’m supposed to do as a Christian down here on this little planet, for the meager amount of time I’m here.
So this Thanksgiving I encourage you: instead of making a list of what, make a list of whom. And then if you have time, write them a note to tell them why.
It may be the nicest thing anyone’s ever said to them, and they may never throw it away.
How’s that for a Thanksgiving treat and early Christmas present!
For those of you who would like to continue our focus on peace for this Thanksgiving, you’ll want to read (or get a refresher with) my 2016 post: “Want Peace? Give a Peace Offering.” You’ll find it at this link:
And next week we’ll be into the Christmas season and Advent, so the month of December will focus on that. Hint: it will include peace! J
May you prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers (3 John 2).