Detail from The First Thanksgiving by Jennie Augusta Brownscombe, 1914
When I was in first grade or kindergarten, we learned the great story of the Pilgrims and Indians, who after a successful harvest decided to celebrate the God who saved them from starvation with a feast. Most people would bristle at this story now, as we’ve come to understand the longer history of exploitation and cultural genocide that was part of European expansion. Still, there was some truth about this moment for those who landed at Plymouth Rock and celebrated a three-day banquet in 1621. And for a child it was a good story that fostered values of diversity and gratitude.
I remember making my first card at the direction of our teacher. She encouraged each child to fold a piece of manila paper in half, then to trace their hand on that folded paper. Eventually, we put on a beak, turkey feet, and the multi-colored feathers where our small fingers were traced. After writing some sentiment from the board thanking our parents, we had achieved our first Thanksgiving Day card! I was very proud to bring that home to my parents, and surprised to find it as a treasure in my mother’s hoard of childhood items years later.
Thanksgiving means many things this year. I am mostly grateful for God’s grace that supports my very being and living and keeps giving. I receive forgiveness, encouragement, and genuine peace from God through the different sides of our relationship: Deep Friend, Lover, Way Maker, Jokester, God. I can’t even begin to name it all. And of course, I still hold the primal relationships with my family as dear: parents, siblings, step sisters, spouses, children, grandparents. And for this incredible vocation as a friar minor—the journey continues! Friends and acquaintances make my life rich.
Counting blessings sometimes helps me realize that I can’t count them all. It moves me to live in a world where there is abundance, where sharing what I have is possible. When I’m in an emotional space of fear, it’s because I’ve taken my eyes off of how God is working in my life. When you’re overwhelmed by fear you become possessive and see others as competing for the same limited resources. Grateful living helps me see that God is giving what we need and more! Life is more effortless, and I can be more generous.
Let’s really celebrate this Thursday of Thanksgiving. Let’s feast on the goodness of God, and that crispy turkey, sweet potatoes, potatoes and gravy, rolls, green bean casserole and pumpkin pie. It’s the beginning of The Banquet where diversity and gratitude reign.