When I was a child, I remember Thanksgiving as the day when daddy went squirrel hunting. I never saw the correlation between squirrels and Thanksgiving. Maybe it was my dad’s way of taking the day, doing something that afforded peace and quiet, a luxury that he rarely enjoyed as a dairy farmer.
In the mornings, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade streamed its way across our 16” black and white television. My brother, Gerald and I laid on our bellies with our chins on our hands and watched every turn and tilt. We appraised every step, every band, every float, waiting as anxiously as the children on the crowded New York City streets for Santa to signal the end of the parade with his generous toss of candies to the good children. It was glorious to watch the giant balloon figures being hoisted, guided, and held down by the street walking anchors.
My older brothers, Troy and Eric, were off somewhere doing whatever big brothers did on those Thanksgiving days, their passion of parade watching long past. Mamma was cooking. Occasionally she would call me into the kitchen to help peel the eggs for deviling, or smash the potatoes for creaming, or to taste the whipped topping for the pumpkin pie. What lusciousness was Thanksgiving! Except for Tom.
The barnyard turkey (Tom) that cooked silently in the oven had the previous day strutted around the yard like plumed royalty. I had to admit that I would miss that hateful old bird and his run-at-you meanderings. But the old fellow’s skinny legs, dry “un-Butter-balled” breast, and stringy neck suckered us all that day, and the following days in soups, salads, and anything else my mother could think to make out of the husky 25 pounder. If it had not been for Mamma’s giblet gravy, we would have all succumbed to the wrath of Tom.
I don’t remember any special prayers or other exacting reminders of gratitude. Thanksgiving seemed more of a feeling than any kind of activity or ritual. Thanksgiving’s specialness came from the wonder of food and being together, away from the barn, off from school, and out of the field. There was no thought of Black Friday sales. There was no rush to finish dinner to watch the big game. There was not even any resistance in taking a nap. Wal-Mart had not come to town; computers were not invented; and our phone was on a wait-your-turn party line.
The world has changed a great deal in my lifetime. I imagine all old people say the same thing. I know my grandmother, who never got to high-school, said it…during her life she saw the invention of cars, the A-bomb, and rockets that shot men into outer space. Throughout all of time, things have been changing. But that is okay with me. I choose to be grateful for change.
We move forward in time, but I don’t worry about that, because God is here and God is in the future. Before I sat down to write this meditation about Thanksgiving, I hastily counted the number of times the word “thanks” shows up in God’s word. Well, a lot, over 100 times. To give thanks is commanded throughout the Bible. Jesus did it. Paul did it. Peter and the apostles did it.
I believe a grateful heart doesn’t have time to be otherwise. A grateful heart can’t be filled with the ugliness of hate, the corrosion of bigotry, or the decay of greed. When we are being thankful, we are being our best. When gratitude holds our center, we are free from many things that would hurt us.
May God help me to have a grateful heart. Amen.