"I think Thanksgiving, just before Advent, is a wonderful opportunity to sum up all the gifts of the year..."
Thanksgiving as a Way of Life
Thanksgiving is so many things. It is part of our call as Christians; we are charged with being thankful for God’s bounty, which includes challenges that push us to grow. It is a day on the calendar in November. It is a prayer, silent or aloud, when we feel particularly blessed.
The day on the calendar is marked by food, gathering, and remembering. The whole landing at Plymouth Rock thing was not a big deal in our family. Yes, my mother could trace her family back to one of the passengers, but that person was not a significant player in our family stories. My father’s father came to this country in the second half of the 19th century; the woman he married was already here, but I have no idea for how many generations. Our Thanksgiving dinners, often around my godparent’s table, were very much about thanks for the blessings of right now.
As the years have accumulated since that little ship hit the coast of Massachusetts, that story has moved further into the mist. So what do we do with Thanksgiving now? Do we read the historical research and realize that they were not all very nice people and that their arrival was not necessarily a hit with the native peoples? What about all the other people who arrived on these shores at different times and in different places? Certainly it is wonderful that they survived the trip and set up housekeeping in a strange, unfamiliar place.
I think Thanksgiving, just before Advent, is a wonderful opportunity to sum up all the gifts of the year, to celebrate what we have learned about being good stewards of the world we live in and to open our hearts to more learning about how it all works and what we can do to be good citizens of the world.
It is interesting to look at the peoples that have historically had itchy feet and a passion for exploration and those who are passionate about their own piece of geography, with no desire to go anywhere else. What gifts to they each bring to our understanding of each other? How can we learn from each other’s ways and longings? How do their stories inform our thanksgivings?
Thanksgiving is more than a day, it is a way of life. The day gives us a chance to collect all the pieces of our gratitude and share those stories with friends and family around a table.
Elizabeth Ring is a lifelong Episcopalian and student of theology. She recently retired from 26 years on the staff of the Diocese of Maine where she was part of the team that developed their Diocesan Resource Center and served as consultant to congregations around program and leadership development for lifelong learning.
Image: "The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth" (1914) By Jennie A. Brownscombe